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updated: 10/22/2014 10:13 AM

Editorial: Unfortunate reminders of need for training, preparation

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  • A McHenry County Sheriff's deputy blocks a street in Holiday Hills Thursday morning, where two deputies were shot.

      A McHenry County Sheriff's deputy blocks a street in Holiday Hills Thursday morning, where two deputies were shot.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Nearly a year ago, it was in Arlington Heights. Last week, the tiny hamlet of Holiday Hills.

Where will the next one be, and will police be prepared?

These are questions that every suburban community increasingly must be asking -- and that their police officers surely are -- as attacks on police from the unlikeliest of places demonstrate the constant and unpredictable threats facing cops wherever they work.

In December 2013, Arlington Heights police officer Michael McEvoy was shot in the face as he entered a doorway at the scene of a domestic disturbance. His life was likely saved by the actions of fellow officers who arrived moments later and dragged him, unconscious, to a safe area where then-Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Koeppen applied first aid until emergency help arrived.

Last week, in the pitch dark early Thursday morning, McHenry County sheriff's deputies Khalia Stakiewicz and Dwight Maness, responded to reports of a disturbance in the wooded village of Holiday Hills northwest of Island Lake and were greeted by a spray of gunfire from an AR15 assault rifle. As they lay wounded, the shooter emerged from the house seemingly prepared to "finish the job," in the words of the county sheriff, when deputy Eric Luna arrived with gun drawn and the alleged shooter retreated back inside the home.

Two more police, Island Lake officers Victoria Gwizdak and Gilbert Hermano, arrived as all this was unfolding, dragged the injured deputies to safety and performed first aid that probably saved their lives.

Our first reaction to these accounts is a mixture of gratitude and esteem, a flush of acknowledgment of the dangers we intuitively know are faced by those who "serve and protect" and of appreciation for the skill, preparation and courage they bring to their jobs.

We all know very well that our suburbs are no longer the crime-free havens they once were, but we also know that incidents like these are rare for individual towns. Considering such rarity, it would be easy for any community, any officer, any of us to succumb to a dangerous "it can't happen here" complacency.

Clearly, it can happen anywhere. So far, when it has, officers have been able to respond with the training and resources to match their bravery. With each unfortunate repeat, however, we're reminded of the need for that training and those resources. Surely individual police departments are, as well. though such events must also serve as an opportunity for departments to reflect that they may have to call on their training at any time, in even the most unexpected places.

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