This article appeared in today’s issue of Vero Beach News Journal and other Treasure Coast newspapers down to Stuart.

     Sean Collier. Age 26. Occupation: Police officer for M.I.T.

     Killed, April 18th, 2013, 10:30 p.m. while sitting in his patrol car, unaware that the two Boston terrorists were approaching from behind. Two shots were fired into his head, ending his dreams and devastating his family. The killers tried to steal his gun, but were thwarted by new holster technology.

     Much like the fate of Dallas Officer J. D. Tippit in November of 1963, killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in his flight after assassinating President Kennedy, the murder of a cop subsequent to a bigger crime is the ancillary story, what we hear less about.

     Like Tippit, Officer Collier did nothing to deserve his execution. He was killed for one reason: Being a police officer. The same reason Officer Barbara Pill was executed on a Melbourne street just one year ago by a thief.

     Such is the risk every cop dares to take each day as they pin the badge and walk out the door unknowing what lies ahead for that day.

     Sean Collier was the 16th cop killed in the line of duty in 2013. Since then, there have been four more. Two days after Collier’s death, Deputy Chad Key lost his life while directing traffic in Grayson County, Texas, run over by a drunk driver who was out on bond – for drunk driving.

     Approximately 160 police officers a year will die in the line of duty, each for doing the job we ask of them. We ask officers to protect us from harm, to maintain order for our society, to take our reports, to respond to injury and assault, to alleviate our fears and rescue those of us in harms way. Cops are the front line, the ones who grapple with violent criminals, who are constantly on guard against complaints of impropriety and who have to inform mothers and fathers that their children were killed.

     The risks go beyond physical. What politicians do every day by accepting favors and gifts in exchange for special legislation, cops go to jail for bribery because police officers are held to a higher standard. Cops know they are constantly under scrutiny from bosses, public and the media.

     Not long ago, someone asked me, “Why don’t police officers smile more?”

     When you consider the scenarios they face every second of every day, is it any wonder?

     In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the adjoining week as Police Week. This is when hundreds of memorial services will be held around the nation honoring the 19,000-plus cops – since 1791 – who have lost their lives serving the homeland. They will take place in nearly every community in America, including one in Titusville on May 17th at the Police Hall of Fame and Museum.

     Perhaps, we can demonstrate our respects to those like Officers Collier, Pill and thousands of others, by showing their families and comrades that we care.

     Meanwhile, the next time you see a cop eating a donut, save the quips and criticisms. You don’t know where he just came from or what lies ahead on his watch.