The shooting of a Wyoming deputy is a reminder of the dangers facing law enforcement officers

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The shooting of a Laramie County sheriff’s deputy draws attention to the dangers law enforcement officers face every day.

The deputy, whose identity has not been released, is believed to be in stable condition after being taken to the intensive care unit at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center for treatment after being injured in a shooting with another man on Saturday. The other man died in the incident.

While rare, such incidents impact law enforcement across the state, said Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police.

“Fortunately, these kinds of events don’t happen very often,” he said.

While the officer in Saturday’s incident survived, that is not always the case.

Since Wyoming became a state in 1890, 60 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty, according to Officer Down Memorial Page, which keeps law enforcement death records in all the countries. The majority of those killed – 36 of the 60 – died from gunfire.

Oedekoven told the Cowboy State Daily that when a law enforcement officer dies or is injured in the line of duty, it affects the entire peacekeeping force.

“It’s a family; it’s a neighborhood, it’s a community,” he said. “It’s all those words in very positive terms. We come together because it is a shared experience. It is a shared emotion. It’s this shared grief.

Oedekoven said his association works with all other law enforcement agencies across the state when tragedies occur.

“Several years ago, we worked with a number of agencies to develop a checklist plan for situations involving agents,” he said. “We know federal death benefits, state death benefits, who to notify where they may be so we can assess the value and help the agency as well.”

Oedekoven had personal experience of shootings involving officers and the death of an officer under his command.

On December 20, 1983, Constable Jon Hardy was on duty at Gillette when he was ambushed after responding to the scene of a residential burglary. Oedekoven, who was Hardy’s patrol lieutenant, said the tragedy never left him.

“There’s a whole flurry of emotions, especially incredible sadness,” he said. “There’s the incredible desire to do good by Jon’s family and memory, in my case; and to deal with some of the aspects of the investigation to ensure that it is handled properly.

Oedekoven noted that in his current position, when high-profile incidents occur, his agency works with other peace officer training organizations to incorporate lessons learned from tragic situations and turn them into learning opportunities.

“It’s part of the discussion we’re having with our Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy, standards and training for peace officers and the leadership of sheriffs and chiefs to see if there are things on which we should work on, consider and undertake to help understand and manage for the future,” he said.

Oedekoven pointed out that because the majority of communities in Wyoming are smaller and more rural, there is more support for law enforcement officers than in other parts of the country.

“In Wyoming, we’re very lucky because our law enforcement officers are close to the community, and our community is close to our law enforcement officers,” Oedekoven said. “We have incredible support from the community, the officer’s family, the agents the officer works for and the agency.”

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About Michael C. Lovelace

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