COLORADO SPRINGS — It's National Police Week, which is observed during the week of May 15 every year. It’s a time to honor past and present officers, and it’s also a chance to salute the blue and show support to those protecting our community.
“It’s a great week for us. We have a lot of support within this community and across the nation,” said M.J. Thompson, a crime prevention officer at the Stetson Hills Division. “Thank you to the community. These officers really do put their lives on the line every day, as do the fire department.”
For the officers that are serving the Colorado Springs community right now, it’s been a busy few weeks because they've been helping out during wildfires.
Officer Thompson was one of nearly 100 officers to help with evacuations and street closures during last Thursday's fires.
“We go door to door and it's tough to do that. People are scared and children are scared. We just try to convey to them it's for their best interest to leave,” said Officer Thompson.
During an emergency like a wildfire, officers' first priority is keeping everyone safe. They work closely with the fire department to know which streets to block off.
“We set up traffic control points, so we don't let anybody come back into the area where the fire is ongoing or whether we believe the fire is,” said Commander Scott Whittington, at the Stetson Hills Division.
Commander Whittington said last Thursday's fires were an example of the hard decisions the department has to make every day.
“We make those decisions every day about how to allocate our resources. And when a fire comes and takes priority over that, we go to generally speaking a priority dispatch,” said Commander Whittington.
Those tough decisions on where to send officers and how to allocate resources especially during a wildfire, are made all while facing a staffing shortage of their own.
“We wish we had more officers out on the streets, but as with all police departments throughout the country, we are having problems keeping our numbers up,” said Commander Whittington.
Officers are also trained in how to keep an eye on the winds, to see where the fire may spread and communicate that information to dispatchers and other personnel.
“For the most part we're doing okay. Our officers are tired, they really are, and so is the fire department. But it's our job to help protect the community and that's what we're here for and we're going to do it,” said Officer Thompson.
Local law enforcement will be honoring fallen officers tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. during the annual Pikes Peak Region Peace Officers' Memorial. The names of 33 officers from El Paso County, who've given their lives in the line of duty will be read.
“I’ve been a police officer for about 39 years. And National Police Week is when we look back at our fallen officers not only here nationwide, and we tip our hat to them and the families in the ultimate sacrifice that they gave for us,” said Commander Whittington.