Answering the Call to Duty

By Kevin Morison

In many professions, getting an assignment late in the work day brings the luxury of waiting until tomorrow to get started. But not in policing—and certainly not for the three dedicated members of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau who lost their lives over the weekend answering one more call before the end of their shift.

Officers Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo II were in the last hour of their midnight tour of duty when the seemingly routine call was dispatched just after 7 am on Saturday: domestic disturbance at a home in Stanton Heights. Officer Eric Kelly had actually just finished his shift and was on his way home when he heard the call come out. Still in uniform and driving his personal vehicle, he detoured to the scene to back up his fellow officers from Zone 5.

Arriving on the scene, all three officers were met by 22-year-old Richard Poplawski, armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and laying in wait to ambush the officers from inside the home. The officers didn’t stand a chance. Each suffered fatal gunshots wounds, making Saturday the deadliest day in the 150-year history of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau.

That these three men responded so quickly and diligently to a call for help speaks volumes of the incredible dedication that law enforcement officers display every day—in Pittsburgh and in communities across the United States. Law enforcement officers don’t “take a message” or “transfer calls into voice mail” or promise to “get back to you in the morning.” When the call goes out, they respond without hesitation and often without regard for their own safety.

Most of us take that level of commitment and courage for granted. It’s what we’ve come to expect from our law enforcement officers because that’s what they have delivered—day in and day out, 9-1-1 call after 9-1-1 call. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy like Pittsburgh for many of us to realize just what our law enforcement officers do for us on a daily basis.

So the next time you put a caller on hold or send them into voice mail, think about Officers Kelly, Mayhle and Sciullo, and think about the officers protecting your own community right now. They don’t have that same luxury—and, quite frankly, they wouldn’t want it any other way.