May 29, 2024

A prayer for safe homecoming

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As you drove to work today, you probably noticed the flags on display in the uptown district. You may have thought, it’s too soon for Memorial Day. Is it Flag Day?

The Creston VFW Post 1797 put the flags out to honor National Peace Officer Memorial Day, a day created in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. He also proclaimed this week as Police Week.

As the wife of a police officer, this week holds a bittersweet place in my heart. I love seeing our men and women celebrated for the thankless job they do, but I hate thinking of the families who have lost someone so special.

In Washington D.C., a wall of nearly 25,000 names stands at the National Police Memorial. Each year, more names are etched as more officers are killed in the line of duty.

This year Iowa adds one name to the wall — 33-year-old Algona Police Officer Kevin Cram. Algona is a northern town of 5,375 in Kossuth County. Officer Cram made contact with Kyle Ricke, known to have an active warrant, on Sept. 13, 2023. After advising Ricke he was going to be placed under arrest, Ricke shot Officer Cram. He was located by other officers and EMS, and taken to the Kossuth Regional Health Center in Algona where he was pronounced deceased.

Officer Cram was a 10-year veteran of Iowa law enforcement, serving for the Nora Springs Police Department from 2013-2015 and the Algona Police Department from 2015-2023.

While he is the only Iowa officer to be killed in the line of duty this year, we’ve had several losses hit close to home recently.

In March, Norwalk Police Officer Jayson Spurr, 45, died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Originally from Creston, Spurr graduated from Creston Community High School in 1996 and Southwestern Community College in 1998. His loss has been felt locally from everyone who knew him. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Just last week, Adams County Deputy Nicholas Koeppe, 34, was in an off-duty accident resulting in his death. Koeppe was also a SWCC graduate and athlete. Koeppe had been an Adams County sheriff’s deputy for about 18 months. He leaves behind his parents and three children.

I’ve been a police wife for four years. And before that, I was a military wife for eight. I understand the danger, but it’s also always seemed distant. He always comes home. Sometimes the possibility of death slips from my mind.

I think, he wouldn’t die in Creston. It’s a small town; this isn’t Chicago, Los Angeles or New York City. But Cram was killed in a town smaller than ours, and he wasn’t doing anything our officers haven’t done many times.

Though the big-city killings take up a disproportionate amount of media space, for three consecutive years, officers in rural and remote places have made up a substantial portion of our nation’s wounded and killed law enforcement officers.

According to FBI statistics, In 2022, felonious killings were the top cause of death for law enforcement officers, accounting for 60 deaths, compared to 58 accidental deaths.

In 2021, there were 73 felonious officer deaths, a 25-year high. Using this year’s data, the information shows it’s not about more shooting of police officers in rural communities, it’s about more deaths. Research done by Kathleen Dias shows of 374 officers shot in 2021, only 60 died of their wounds, approximately 16%.

In cities with a population under 11,000, out of 85 officers shot, 18 died of their wounds, approximately 30%. This isn’t just a discrepancy from the largest cities to the smallest ones. When you take a look at officers in areas above 11,000 but under 30,000, the percentage is only 17.

These numbers are sobering because it means they aren’t as safe as we assume they are. I don’t sit in our house every night wondering if he’ll come home, but I also don’t take his safety for granted. Every time the Multi-Jurisdictional Entry Team is deployed, he leaves outfitted in tactical gear and I worry. Every time they finish entry and building clearing, I get a text saying they are safe.

When he comes home, I hear all the nasty things said to him. I hear the names he’s called, the way they are belittled and insulted. He takes it well, saying no one can insult him worse than his Marine Corps drill instructors did.

If we are going to celebrate their lives and honor their sacrifice, let’s also be thankful when they’re alive and serving.

"When I Don't Come Home One Day," a poem by K-9 Officer Isabel McDonald
Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.