Therefore, send not to know/For whom the bell tolls,/It tolls for thee.John Donne
The symbolic trappings of a law enforcement officer’s funeral have become far too common in our nation.
The mournful notes of the bagpipes, the draped flags, the solemn procession of patrol cars and motorcycles, the cadence of the gun salute and the emotionally chilling reality of the final end-of-watch radio dispatch have become known to us all as we have watched other communities grieve the loss of public servants committed to the concept of “serve and protect.”
According to the FBI, 24 law enforcement officers were “feloniously” killed in the line of duty during the first six months of 2019, all of them by gunfire. That’s roughly one a week somewhere in our country.
And now it has happened here.
There is little that can be said about the tragically stolen life of Deputy Blane Dixon that has not been said. By the accounts of family, friends, co-workers and those with whom he interacted in the course of performing his sworn duties, it is obvious that he was one of the “good guys” — a good husband and father, a good family member, a good friend, a good deputy. A good man.
And suddenly he was gone, and like the poet John Donne reminds us, we are all diminished by his death.
The Times editorial board
- Norman Baggs, general manager
- Shannon Casas, editor in chief
- Cheryl Brown
- David George
- Mandy Harris
- Brent Hoffman
- J.C. Smith
- Tom Vivelo
More often than not, we fail to adequately appreciate the job done in our communities by those who choose law enforcement as a profession. We expect long, tough hours of often thankless service for poor pay, even though at some level we know that those who wear the badge run the risk of putting their lives on the line in the performance of their job.
As with any profession, there are a few who don’t belong, and they too often garner the public’s attention. But for every problem officer there are hundreds of good men and women who serve the public well every minute of every day, and far too often we don’t truly appreciate the heroes who work among us until we hear the haunting bagpipes of a policeman’s funeral.
Those of us who labor in the world of journalism believe that with enough effort the perfect words can be found to describe any situation, but there are no words with sufficient weight to convey appropriate meaning to the violent death of someone like Blane Dixon.
Senseless. Tragic. Unnecessary. Heartbreaking. Pointless. Sorrowful. All fall far short in trying to capture the harsh reality of a family living with the memory of a man now hailed as a hero, but without the man himself.
We do hope there is some solace to be found in the incredible outpouring of support from the community, which has truly been staggering. Donations of money, services, goods from businesses and individuals have flooded in as the community joins the family and fellow officers in grieving for the sudden death of one with so much to offer.
If there is anything to be gained by such tragic events, perhaps it is a reminder that we truly are all part of the same human fabric, and as such are all impacted by the devastating effects of violent crime. If, in some fashion, that shared community pain can lead to a renewal of support for law enforcement and a determination for us all to do what we can to make lives safer for everyone, that will be a positive outcome from a dark and cruel experience.
The legal process will move along, the accused will be prosecuted and sentenced if found guilty, and punishment will be imposed for the death of a good officer. But no matter the severity of that punishment, there is no way the end result can be considered as “justice.”
There is nothing the courts can do that will bring Blane Dixon back to his family, his friends and the job he loved. There is no justice to be found for an act so painfully tragic.
As a community we all grieve, lessened not only by the loss of such a good man, but also by the certain realization that such tragedy can, indeed, happen here. Our collective goal has to be that we never allow it to happen again.
It is just all so sad. So terribly, terribly sad.