us. The loss of two innocent police officers and a brave citizen is
both stunning and senseless. The upcoming primary voting for the
election of a new sheriff is rendered almost meaningless in comparison
to this incident. Any continued criticism of the leadership or
politics at Metro can wait for another day. We can certainly
acknowledge and praise Mr.Wilcox and our brave officers who chose NOT
to turn away from danger. Together, they confronted and contained the
threat, rapidly stabilized the incident, and then waited for tactical
support as the cowards ended the confrontation themselves.
The very ‘best’ of Metro (and policing) will be on display in the days
and weeks to come because Metro does a phenomenal job of honoring
officers who die in the line of duty! I have attended more police
funerals than I ever wanted to attend — one is too many! The pride
that an officer feels and the appreciation for being honored and
valued can be overwhelming. There is time for intense and deep
reflection about the career that we have chosen and our own mortality.
Every police officer has thought about being killed on duty. I
visualized ‘the end’ almost like a slow motion slideshow. Where will
it occur? What will happen? Will I be strong and endure? Will I have
help? Who will deliver the death notification to my family? How will I
be remembered? How will my family move on?
Beck and Soldo knew they could die but they could not possibly have
expected it to occur at lunch on a Sunday morning. It is one thing to
bravely face danger head-on. We are trained to ‘NEVER GIVE UP’ and
have a desire to fight until the threat is stopped. Some officers do
die during confrontations where things just go wrong, but it is
horrific to be executed for nothing more than wearing a uniform and to
have no opportunity to react!
These incidents are horrific, but not unheard of. In 2009, there were
four police officers ambushed in Lakewood, Washington as they sat in
a coffee shop. The suspect was a black male who was a convicted felon.
He simply hated cops and apparently wanted some sort of revenge.
In 2011, three National Guard members were gunned down while eating in
an IHOP in Reno, Nevada. A Hispanic male who had mental health issues
killed them with gunfire; they were doing nothing more than eating —
while in a uniform that represented the United States of America and
Officer’s Beck and Soldo were executed, not because of anything that
they did, but because of the uniform that they wore and what they
represented. An evil married couple (both white) ended their lives
because of the fantasy in their minds — that the police represented an
oppressive and fascist government. Those that don’t wish to follow the
‘rules’ label those who enforce the rules as ‘oppressive’ when, in
reality, if we didn’t have police and our military as guardians of our
country there would be nothing but disorder and destruction. There is
no indication that the suspects had any grievances with the LVMPD and
there is also no indication that negative publicity about Metro was a
motivator. They were self-consumed and cowardly.
The deaths of Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo will rock the LVMPD in a
different way than past tragedies. Officers have died in traffic
accidents — these officers did NOT expect to crash and die. Officers
have died in the line of duty during encounters — these officers did
NOT expect to have an accident and die. Officers have also died at the
hands of suspects after they initiated stops or responded to calls for
police service. They go on these calls not knowing for sure if they
will survive the shift and return home to their families. Officers
Beck and Soldo were trained to be on guard, they were trained in
street survival tactics, and there is no indication that they could
have done anything to prevent their tragic deaths except not go to
lunch or NOT PUT ON THAT UNIFORM…
Rest assured — there will always be men and women in Nevada and the
United States willing to accept the risks, and sometimes fall, because
that is just what our police do. Metro will stand strong and survive
as an organization and continue to serve this community. There have
been plenty of freaks and monsters over the years who have thought
they can create anarchy–they will continue to lose in the long run.
Metro has learned lessons from prior line of duty deaths — especially
those related to traffic accidents. Any improvements made after such
tragedies HONOR the memories of the lost officers by improving the
safety and the practices of the surviving officers. Critiquing
incidents does not discredit or disrespect those involved — IF this
process proceeds professionally and in a positive manner. Throughout
American history, our wars have been studied and improvements have
been made. This reduces the likelihood that additional lives will be
lost in the future.
Although I don’t have the ability to watch the news from Las Vegas, I
plan on watching the funerals on the Internet. I don’t think any
active or retired member of law enforcement does not feel complete
emptiness (and rage) after an incident like this… but we can not
only remain vigilant about our safety; we have to maintain discipline
and achieve a level of excellence. We were always held to a higher
standard and we knew that when we took the job. The public will no
longer accept any less. We do what we need to do and we EXPECT to be
scrutinized and held accountable.
Our police would rather never mourn — but they must mourn to move on.
The police would do well to avoid the anger and rage that an incident
like this causes — but that anger is a fact of life and must be
properly channeled. The greatest honor that any member of the LVMPD
can give to the fallen officers is to learn about them and strive to
life up to their examples of excellence and selflessness. The
survivors can set a goal to become better police officers every day
and to contribute to the improvement of the organization. The
community can show support in many ways. The time is now to support
the LVMPD! I’ll never forget looking out the window of a police car in
a funeral procession and seeing the young boys and girls waving flags
as the procession heads to the cemetery. This is a snapshot of
America… if our police officers, firefighters, and soldiers are
risking death in the line of duty… or in service to our country, it
is essential that they are recognized and honored.
The young people waving those flags are the future protectors of the
Las Vegas Valley. They watch how their parents and other adults
respond. They listen to what is said about the officers and the
incident. I’m sure that some of them feel that tremendous sense of
doing what is right and they sense that reverence and pride that leads
them to say, “I want to be a police officer when I grow up.” We don’t
know what the future holds but I am confident that we’ll still have
people motivated to serve, at times face unrelenting criticism, and
still set an example for the community by maintaining discipline and
striving to achieve the highest ideals of policing.
Norm Jahn is a former LVMPD lieutenant, who has also served as a
police chief in Shawano, Wisconsin, and has nearly 25 years of police
experience. Jahn now contributes his opinions and ideas to help
improve policing in general, and in Las Vegas in particular, through
his weekly column in the Las Vegas Tribune.