Friday, September 10, 2010

A Greater Crime

The death of policeman William Crews is a shocking reminder of the terrible risks than can so often confront our police officers. For most of us, a day at the office is no more dangerous than making a cup of tea. For some of us, the workplace has hazards that can lead to serious harm through accident, such as on construction sites or in mining. But very few of us would be prepared to do a job where there are times when there are people who are actively trying to kill us. But for the men and women who serve our community as police officers, it is an inescapable part of the job. It takes a special kind of person to accept that challenge.

It can be all too easy to criticise police for their failings, or complain when we make a mistake and get a ticket for speeding, but when we do we forget that the role of our police force is to uphold our laws and to protect our right to live in a peaceful society, free of the dangers of drugs and violent crimes. All of us are imperfect, but the best of us are always striving to do and be the best that we can, and the same is true for police officers. That’s why they go to work every day, not knowing what unexpected dangers might present themselves. That’s why they take the risk that perhaps they may not go home at the end of the shift.

There have been calls for the punishment for those who kill police to be increased over and above the usual penalties for killing. The New South Wales opposition has called for a mandatory life sentence for anyone who murders a police officer, not because a police officer is somehow more important than any other individual, but because of what the officer stands for. An attack on a police officer is not just an attack on the individual, it is also an attack against the whole community, against all of us. It is an assault on the state as well as on the person, and the seriousness of that attack should be recognised by the law.

Whether or not a mandatory life sentence is appropriate is open for discussion, but the argument that a greater crime has been committed is valid.

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