Benediction for the thin blue line

Recent weeks have been hard on Alaska's peace officers and their families. On Oct. 28, Fairbanks police Sgt. Allen Brandt died from surgical complications after he'd been shot five times while responding to a call about gunshots. On Nov. 12, Anchorage police officer Arn Salao was shot repeatedly in an ambush attack. Blessedly, he survived.

They are two among a wave of violence against officers nationwide. Sixty officers have been shot and killed in 2016 (130 total have died in the line of duty) – a 67 percent increase over 2015. Scarier is the increase in ambush attacks – 170 percent.

As I faced a soon-to-graduate class of police recruits this November at the Alaska Department of Public Safety Training Academy, I read them something their Academy Commander, Lt. Chad Goeden, had written while he was away attending the FBI National Academy (NA). Participation in this 10-week challenging programs is by invitation only, through a selective nomination process. It is for leaders of law enforcement agencies.

As with all FBI NA classes, Lt. Goeden's was going to visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., which honors officers who died in the line of duty. Chad was selected to give the benediction and sent me what he'd written. Upon reflection, I'd like to share it with Alaska's citizens.

"Heavenly Father, we come before you today as a worldwide family united by a common bond. We come to honor our brothers and sisters whom You have taken to a far greater place. They gave their lives while working as guardians to protect our families, our homes, our communities, and our way of life.  

Help us to remember, support and pray for their loved ones. The wives and husbands who will no longer feel the warmth of a simple hug at the end of the day. The children who have no one to answer when they call out 'Daddy, Daddy! or Mommy, Mommy!' The parents who had to bury their own child.

Help us to remember, support, and pray for their friends and coworkers. The ones who will never again see that quick smile as they enter the squad room or be reassured by hearing their voice on the radio, saying that backup is on the way. The ones who will have to once again stretch just a little farther to keep that thin blue line from breaking.


Help us to remember, support, and pray for their communities. The neighborhoods, counties, and states which will have one less protector patrolling the streets. One less guardian ready to answer the call, day or night, without regard for their own safety.

But most of all Heavenly Father, help each of us to remember to honor their loss by always serving with honor, humility, and professionalism. Help us to remember to use each day we have left in this noble profession to be a positive influence on everyone we meet. Help us to remember that our every word and action should be a fitting tribute to their sacrifice.

And to our fallen brothers, sisters, partners and friends whose memories continue to guide us, we salute you.  Rest in peace, and know that you will never be forgotten."

John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one, than they lay down their life for a friend." As of this writing, the names of 20,789 peace officers who showed that love for strangers are on the wall in D.C.

Our country has been experiencing some turmoil in police-citizen relations. Still, we are capable of reaching out to each other "in order to form a more perfect union."

We saw such reaching out in Dallas on July 7th between Black Lives Matter protesters and police. One of the protesters described the interaction:

"They (police) gave us high fives, hugs, were taking selfies. It was such an instance of love and understanding, that 'I'm here for you.' You could feel it. There was no animosity in the air."

Then shots rang out as a shooter targeted police. Five officers were killed; seven were wounded. But not before the nation saw officers run toward the active fire while others shielded protesters and led them out of harm's way. Afterward, a protester who was shielded by police would go on national news to tearfully thank the officers for their courage and sacrifice.

Lt. Goeden's prayer beckons officers still facing the challenge of policing in these sometimes-turbulent times to continue to serve "with honor, humility, and professionalism." Permit this Alaskan to add her prayer that they find the strength and courage to do so. And that we all continue reaching out to one another – not just in times of shared grief, but also in times of protests and problem solving.

Val Van Brocklin is a former state and federal prosecutor in Alaska who now trains and writes on criminal justice, leadership and ethics nationwide. She lives in Anchorage.\

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email to commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com


Val Van Brocklin

Val Van Brocklin is a former state and federal prosecutor in Alaska who now trains and writes on criminal justice topics nationwide. She lives in Anchorage.