According to Google, the time it would take to drive from Booneville to Dallas is under five hours. It’s about eight hours to Baton Rouge.
For people like Seth Maxwell, wives, mothers, dispatchers, many other members of the general public as well as the officers themselves, those cities might as well be in the next county.
In the wake of police officers being slain in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Maxwell changed his Facebook profile picture to a thin blue line with the words Enough is Enough.
“I support any person who puts themselves in harms way to protect my family, friends and myself. They deserve respect from all citizens that are served by them,” Maxwell said last week. “No human should be gunned down just for doing their job of protecting their communities.”
He adds Luke 6:31 as a reference.
“What’s sad about it is even though we’re a small community, we realize that it could happen here,” said Booneville Police Chief Al Brown. “Even though we’ve not had any types of those problems with officer-involved shootings. But it still weighs in the back of your mind that your guys could be out there on shift and all of a sudden, out of the blue, somebody takes a notion to attack or ambush them.”
A dispatcher at the BPD for eight years, following almost five years with the Logan County Deputy Sheriff’s office, Gina Kinney says she thinks constantly about those possibilities.
“I think about it every day,” said Kinney. “It worries me, not just for my safety but theses guys are out every day dealing with (incidents). It stresses you.”
The chief extracted his badge circled with the mourning band last week. “We’ve been wearing it for two weeks since the Dallas shooting and now they’re laid to rest and you’re ready to take your mourning band off and it’s happened again.
“It’s becoming the new badge of law enforcement, and it’s sad.”
Then why do it?
“It makes you question if you want to continue. Now, for me, I’ve had those thoughts run through my mind already but leaving is not something I want to do at all, it’s in my blood,” said Brown. “But because of what has taken place, officers do question if they want to continue.”
The danger in that, Brown said, is an officer lowering his guard because he is preoccupied with those thoughts.
“We have to keep each other boosted up, talk to each other,” he said. “(The shootings) do make it hard though.”
Obviously the recent violence against police might chase some from the profession, but James Ray of Booneville who is planning a career in law enforcement isn’t among them.
“No I haven’t reconsidered my career choice,” Ray said last week. “I am very passionate about what I want to do with my life and understand the risks that entail this particular career. Naturally, people worry but my family has always been very supportive of me and that is my biggest motivation.
“I want to help people and am willing to make sacrifices to do that. A very cliche yet profound statement was made by someone in my college courses that has stuck with me since I decided to go into law enforcement, ‘Someone has to do it.’ There is a lot of truth to that.”
That doesn’t mean his family won’t worry. They can’t help it, Melinda Smith says.
“I worry every day Kody (Smith) goes to work and I did the same thing when Kyle (Smith) was working here,” their mother Melinda Smith said last week. “I am not naive enough to think that just because you work in a small town this job isn’t dangerous. Look at Marvin Ritchie and other small cities that have lost officers.
“In one way, I see it as more dangerous because you have a limited number of officers available to back you up if you get in a dangerous situation.”
Having been in a cruiser with officer Kody Smith, Melinda Smith speaks from experience.
“One of the very few times I actually did a ride along with Kody I was so nervous, and sure enough we got in a situation that called for back up, and with it being a holiday, having an officer in the academy and one recovering from surgery there was no back up except for Kevin coming from (the county sheriff’s office) Paris,” said Melinda Smith. “A lot can happen in that amount of time! Fortunately, an off duty deputy showed up to help.
“As his mother. I pray for him every day. When I’m at work and hear a siren and know he’s working I automatically head to the window to see if it’s him.”
Easily viewed favorably there is also familiarity in a small town that can be a problem. Kody Smith’s wife has also had to call him because someone he had arrested had spotted her in Walmart and was making her uncomfortable.
As it likely is everywhere, there is support in South Logan County. Brown said in the wake of the shootings his office has fielded calls from individuals expressing that support, talking to officers when they are in businesses and thanking them and “I know these guys can appreciate that.”
“I can’t say we’ve really found hatred of law enforcement here,” said Brown. “Yes, we definitely deal with people who disrespect law enforcement on a daily basis. That has become part of the job, dealing with disrespect. In most cases it’s when officers are doing their job, whether it’s just serving a warrant people talk to them in a manner that is out of context with what the truth is.”
Yesterday (Tuesday) local businessman Earl Hardin said he is taking pizza to City Hall to feed officers and other city employees.
“I get aggravated with them, but when you’ve been in trouble who is the first person you call? You call the police, every time. I don’t see no need of running them down like these boys are doing,” said Hardin.
For other, like Booneville Superintendent of Schools John Parrish — the school distinct employs a school resource officer — inciting the violence is also appalling.
“I think people in power that have a powerful platform need to be very careful about what comes out of their mouth, whether they lean to the left or to the right,” said Parrish. “People can act on what they say.”