High price of law and order

THE precise circumstances surrounding the tragic death of detective Inspector Bryson Anderson won’t be known until the matter goes to court.

Published reports have stated that the 45-year-old father of three was one of several police who attended an allegedly heated dispute between neighbours at semi-rural Oakville.

There are allegations of projectiles being fired, of people barricading themselves in a building and of prolonged police attempts to defuse the situation.

Some may, in retrospect, ask whether the best and safest procedures were followed in the case, given the apparent tensions at the scene, the history of the protagonists and the seemingly drawn-out process of negotiation.

Those are questions for another day and another place.

For now, the issue is simply the appalling fact that another policeman has been killed while doing his job, upholding the law and attempting to maintain the peace.

By all accounts, the slain officer was the ideal policeman, closely engaged with his community and deeply concerned with its welfare. His personnel file was, according to police commissioner Andrew Scipione, ‘‘full to overflowing with complimentary remarks and letters of appreciation, many from the community and victims of crime’’.

Only months ago, in March, highway patrol officer David Rixon was shot dead in Tamworth when he pulled over a disqualified driver for a random breath test. 

Much has been said and written about the risks and hardships so often faced by police, but it is tragedies like the death of Inspector Anderson and Constable Rixon that bring the reality home.

Every time a policeman is killed in such circumstances, all society is injured, as the consequent outpourings of sorrow amply demonstrate.

About 2000 people attended yesterday’s funeral of Inspector Anderson, upon whom the police force conferred posthumous bravery awards, and to whose family the community donated funds as a token of sadness, sympathy and appreciation. 

It is important that communities rally around their police at these times. Officers need to know their work is valued and that society understands and appreciates the risks  police take so that good people can go about their lives free of fear from the lawless.

Commissioner Scipione recognised those risks when he said, at Inspector Anderson’s funeral, that law and order came at a ‘‘sometimes prohibitive price’’.

Prohibitive it may be, but tragically unavoidable it remains.

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