I am writing in regards to the recent announcement that a Dwight police officer, recently convicted of driving under the influence, has been reinstated by a 4 to 3 vote. I am deeply disappointed in this decision, as I still live daily with the loss of my wife Mandy, 3½ year-old son, Ryan, and 11-month-old daughter, Kaitlyn, all who perished due to a drunk driver, while driving to our Dwight home, Nov. 6, 2008. Some might say, “But that was a while ago” – yet for many others, that day is a living, breathing memory.
In 2008, Grundy and Livingston counties had eight DUI-related fatalities. Fourteen fatalities were reported in 2012. Although I applaud the steady efforts of all local public servants to keep drunk drivers off the roads, this Dwight officer’s arrest confirms there is still much work needed to keep these counties safe.
DUIs happen long before a person gets behind the wheel. This is not just a matter of law or legislation, but rather of heart, character and integrity. It’s about regarding others’ lives as highly as our own, being intentional in our decision-making, leading by example and holding each other accountable. It’s about living a life that never even allows for drunk driving to be an option in the first place.
Police officers swear an oath to serve and protect, and are highly aware of not only the damage done by DUIs but also of their heightened responsibility to uphold the law. Equally important is an officer’s duty to be a role model for our youth. Children are swayed and influenced by officers. Often, their first contact with uniformed personnel is at school, where they listen to presentations centered on the dangers of substance abuse and DUIs. Reinstating this Dwight officer reverses every word of those presentations and adds a clause to every conversation a parent has with their child about drinking and driving – because, now, parents must explain why consequences are arbitrary. I believe in forgiveness and second chances, but I also believe our officers should live by a zero-tolerance code when it comes to offenses that put the public at risk.
I am currently 2,000 miles away, but Dwight is still my home at heart. This small town, hit with many recent hardships, is a community of great heart, repeatedly coming together in times of loss and misfortune. My hope is that this officer’s situation sparks a renewed diligence and passion to come together to prevent future families from experiencing a loss as great as mine. It is in this hope that I look forward to calling Dwight my home again in a few short years, when I return with my wife, Timberlie, and our son, Leo. As most boys do, Leo will be looking for heroes. I can only hope they will be men and women of great integrity.
P.S. I have intentionally left out this officer’s name. I wish him no ill will and have no intent on smearing his name.