Honoring those keeping us safe

KODIAK, Alaska - Petty Officer 3rd Class Kelly Kolodzik, with Coast Guard Base Kodiak Police Department, maintains a vigilant watch at the police department's front entrance May 17, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

KODIAK, Alaska - Petty Officer 3rd Class Kelly Kolodzik, with Coast Guard Base Kodiak Police Department, maintains a vigilant watch at the police department's front entrance May 17, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

The familiar flashing red and blue lights followed by a whoop-whoop are not something you want to see in your rearview mirror. Police officers are known for conducting traffic stops, making arrests and being involved with criminal cases but they may not always get the recognition they deserve for a sometimes thankless duty.

A proclamation was signed in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy which designated May 15 as Peace Officer Memorial Day. Subsequent presidents have signed similar proclamations annually. National Police Week is celebrated on the week Peace Officer Memorial Day falls. Law enforcement officials celebrate National Police Week annually around the nation. It is a time to honor fallen and former law enforcement brethren.

The Emerald Isle, the second largest island in the U.S., is home to the largest of five Coast Guard police departments. The Coast Guard Police Department in Kodiak is as important to the community of Kodiak as the NYPD is to New York by maintaining a vigilant watch year round.

“This week is a time to remember the hard work and sacrifices of the officers before us,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Troy Meyer, a Coast Guard police officer with Base Kodiak. “The job of law enforcement officers is a very thankless job because people want you around only when they need you. Other than that they try to avoid you. It’s not like police officers get invited to dinner with people outside the law enforcement field.”

Meyer, a former civilian police officer, was also a firefighter before he joined the Coast Guard. As a firefighter he worked closely with law enforcement officials and it’s that interaction he loved that brought him to the Coast Guard law enforcement field.

“Most of our interaction with the Coast Guard Fire Department comes through responding to different building alarms on base due to fires or other emergencies,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Benjamin Scarbrough, a Coast Guard police officer with Base Kodiak. “We provide on scene security and a perimeter for them in most cases.”

The Coast Guardsmen who are stationed in Kodiak are in a unique situation where they live and work closely with the community, made even closer by the fact that they are on an isolated island. Also unique to island life is how closely the Coast Guard Police Department, local Kodiak Police Department and Alaska State Troopers work together to keep the community safe. Immediate needs must be serviced by the personnel on the island. Any further assistance would have to come from Anchorage, an hour away by commercial plane.

“We respond to information passed to us from either the Alaska State Troopers or Kodiak Police Department about potential reckless drivers driving through our area of responsibility or sharing information between our agencies on possible suspects for different offenses,” said Scarbrough. “The Coast Guard Police Department can also be called to provide extra law enforcement support in conjunction with our partner agencies on island and we often conduct joint training with each other.”

The men and women serving in law enforcement sometimes deal with difficult situations and may not receive appreciation for their hard, dedicated and often thankless work to maintain public safety.

“I am very grateful for the strong relationship that the Coast Guard Police Department has with the Kodiak Police Department and the Alaska State Troopers,” said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Jones, operations officer for Base Kodiak. “As members of a small island community we depend upon each other to ensure that Kodiak maintains the safe and enjoyable atmosphere that we all appreciate. Please pass on your gratitude to your local officers and let them know how much their efforts are appreciated.”

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