Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.
On August 11, 2011, Freemansburg police officer Robert Lasso was killed in the line of duty, while responding to a domestic disturbance. He suffered a shotgun blast to the face. While a distraught Freemansburg Chief of Police subdued the shooter, a highly decorated Bethlehem police officer was the first to arrive on the scene. He tried to save Lasso’s life, repeatedly administering CPR. But he was too late. Lasso succumbed.
Maybe he blames himself for not being fast enough. I don’t know the guy. But what I do know is that almost two years later to the day, this Bethlehem police officer was despondent about the Lasso tragedy. He tried to cheer himself up with a concert and the company of other police officers. He medicated himself the best way he knew – with alcohol.
The result was an off-duty drunk driving accident with no injuries. In fact, the accident happened partially because this officer mistakenly thought he saw a pedestrian, and swerved.
That officer is Richard Hoffman, the very person being crucified before Bethlehem City Council. Council never heard the Lasso story. Nor do they know of Hoffman’s commendations.
I sat in stunned amazement on Monday night when Karen Dolan told a bar bouncer at Molly’s Grille that he was “quite heroic.”
I understand that Molly’s is an after-Council hangout, but bar bouncers are no heroes. Sorry.
The real heroes are the men and women out there who will aid a battered spouse, assist a stranded motorist, help a lost child or try to save someone’s life. The cops. The firefighters. EMTs. The police officer who consoles a five-year old crying boy whose mother has just been shot by his own father.
When Northampton County DA John Morganelli recently proposed establishing a mental health court, he pointed out the special needs of veterans, who put everything on the line for us. We recognize their sacrifices and the stress they suffer as a result of serving in a hostile environment.
But we seem to have no sympathy for the police officer, who puts his life on the line every time he wears that uniform. He sees all the pain and misery in what can be a very cruel world, and it’s no secret that many police officers and other first responders end up suffering from the same post-traumatic stress that we now recognize as a problem in the military.
I spoke to a long-time Bethlehem police officer who is also a veteran yesterday. He told me that, overall, service as a police officer is more stressful than the military. What makes things even worse is that most departments are ill-equipped to deal with officers in distress.
What might help Bethlehem and other police departments is mandatory counseling after stressful events. If they are involved in a homicide, it’s bound to effect them. But most cops would rather die than ask for help. They would consider that a sign of weakness. That’s why it really should be mandatory.
“This is a human being,” Wade Haubert reminded Council on Monday night. Police officers themselves need to be reminded of that from time to time.