By Karen L. Bune
The news of four Oakland police officers being killed sends a chill down the backs of all of us who work in the criminal justice system, and the reverberating effects of this horrible tragedy is felt across the nation. Police officers everywhere make daily sacrifices to protect communities and maintain public safety – they work very long hours, spend significant time away from their families, and are constantly facing inherent dangers that accompany the work that they do. Well trained and adequately armed, they are exposed to more violent criminals on the street and ones who have increasingly more fire power with assault weapons and no hesitation to use them.
Anyone in the field understands how dangerous a traffic stop can be, and it can be deadly as proven in the case of the Oakland tragedy. The shooting deaths of Oakland Police Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Officer John Hege, Sgt. Ervin Romans and Sgt. Daniel Sakai is a monumental loss and substantiates a well known fact that police officers, in their steady pursuit to minimize or prevent victimization – can, themselves, become crime victims.
The cold-blooded killing of these dedicated officers leaves even the most street savvy and experienced law enforcement professional speechless, profoundly grief-stricken, and utterly devastated. In everyone’s mind, the nagging thought persists, “It could have happened here; it could have happened to us, it could have happened to me.”
Oakland is not alone in its grief. The effects of their pain are felt throughout the nation, and many share their sorrow. At times like this, we pause to reflect upon our own lives, our friends and colleagues in law enforcement, and realize the good things in our own lives that should never be taken for granted. Perhaps an event like this reminds us to pick up the phone and call a colleague, have a belated celebration with a friend, or simply extend a helping hand to someone we care about.
The impact of the Oakland tragedy is deep and enduring. Though everyone tries to remain strong for the families, colleagues, and friends of the primary victims, the secondary victimization penetrates us all. It brings home the fact that none of us are immune from deadly consequences for our well intentioned efforts and dedication to public safety.
Karen L. Bune is employed as a Victim Specialist in the Domestic Violence Unit of the State’s Attorney’s Office for Prince George’s County, Maryland. She serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, where she teaches victimology. Ms. Bune is a consultant for the Training and Technical Assistance Center for the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. She is a nationally recognized speaker and trainer on victim issues. Ms. Bune is Board Certified in Traumatic Stress and Domestic Violence, and she is a Fellow of The Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and the National Center for Crisis Management.