Sound Off: Police are here to help

This is a response to W. Cope’s letter to the editor of Jan. 10 titled, “Where were the storm troopers?”

I am a sergeant with the Oak Harbor Police Department. I have been employed with this agency for more than 26 years, and I am proud of the officers that work in our agency along with those that we work with from the Island County Sheriff’s Office, Coupeville Marshal’s Office, and Washington State Patrol.

Mr. Cope, you should be ashamed of yourself for referring to law enforcement officers as storm troopers. Directly from the encyclopedia, a storm trooper is a label given to the Nazi militia members noted for their brutality and violence. Those are not traits of the law enforcement officers you will find working within Oak Harbor and Island County!

I would hope that you would have more respect for the people that work very hard to protect you and the rest of our community on a 365 day basis. In your comments you wondered where the officers were during the recent wind and snowstorms, and you noted that you believed that it was time that our police force be reevaluated.

On the morning of our violent windstorm (Dec. 15), three officers were on duty and all of them were needed to close down a portion of S. Heller Street because a large power pole had broken at the base and was threatening to fall onto the roadway. Even if these officers were not closing down a dangerous section of roadway there still would not have been enough officers to control the 16 intersections within our city that are equipped with signals.

There are Oak Harbor police officers working every minute of every day and night, good weather and bad. When you wondered about where the officers were as you drove through town, did you take any time to consider that the officers may have been elsewhere dealing with emergencies or helping stranded motorists, or blocking off roadways that were covered with downed trees and power lines? Apparently not!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the I-COM dispatchers, members of the Oak Harbor Fire Department and Oak Harbor City Crew who worked some long and very stressful hours during our recent storms!

You noted that it took you twice as long to drive through the city due to the darkened stoplights. Well, yes the lights were out along with all other power which caused many people and businesses to be inconvenienced. I understand how you would have appreciated having officers at intersections to direct traffic, however, we routinely respond to an increased number of calls for service during power outages.

In an ideal world it would be great if officers could control all the intersections with non-working signals but that is simply unrealistic. First of all the Oak Harbor Police Department does not have enough commissioned officers to monitor all of the city intersections which are controlled by signals and respond to the other needs of our community. Secondly, when a person prepares to take their Washington State driver’s license examination they learn that when a signal is not operational, they are to treat that intersection as a four-way stop intersection. Unfortunately, some motorists don’t comply with this rule but officers cannot be everywhere.

Along with performing traffic control and enforcement duties, law enforcement officers handle a wide variety of calls for service. Two officers were recently recognized for responding to a medical call where a female had sustained a deep, potentially life threatening laceration. The officers arrived first and were able to control the bleeding while awaiting the arrival of medical personnel. On another occasion three officers responded to a domestic violence assault and saved a woman from being stabbed to death. On yet another domestic violence call two officers saved a woman who was being held at knifepoint.

Officers also respond to calls where people have threatened to end their life by committing suicide. Officers spend time to help these people in crisis find and get the assistance they need. We are there to protect our community.

Mr. Cope, I understand that you would like to see more officers but you apparently don’t have a realistic understanding of the police department, budget constraints or the wide variety of duties the officers perform while everyone else goes about their daily routine or sleeps peacefully through the night.

The law enforcement officers who work in Oak Harbor and Island County are proud of what they do, day and night. If you really want to know about the Oak Harbor Police Department and the integrity and work ethic of its employees stop by sometime and I will be glad show you around.

Sgt. Sean P. Magorrian lives in Oak Harbor.