VOICES: Are we, as a community, worth the price of their lives?

Dr. Kathy Platoni, COL (RET), US Army
Dr. Kathy Platoni, COL (RET), US Army

Adapted from a speech delivered at the 2021 Montgomery County Police Memorial:

Dark days have consumed the communities of Dayton and Springdale with the tragic losses of two of their finest, Detective George Del Rio, Dayton Police Department, and Officer Kaia Grant, Springdale Police Department. Their valiant mark on the law enforcement community remains etched forever on the minds of those left behind to carry on in the finest traditions of police work and for those to whom they will always remain beloved. They gave their lives to keep us safe and to protect the citizenry from harm; in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, “with the last full measure of devotion.” These are incalculable losses. It is incumbent upon us to continue their legacy of heroism, integrity, and valor and never to forget their noble and courageous deeds.

Detective Del Rio served with the Dayton Police Department for 30 years and with the DEA Task Force for 18 years. Fatally shot in the line of duty while serving a search warrant with the DEA task force on Nov. 4, 2019, he made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, remaining on life support for four days so that his organs could be donated before succumbing to his injuries. This final life-saving act was the culmination of a 30-year career dedicated to saving others from the perilous effects of drugs and other crimes against humanity. In the words of Chief Richard Biehl, the bearing of his work reached not just the City of Dayton, but far beyond the borders of this nation. “He was just that good at what he did. He was a rock and the most noble and selfless of public servants.”

Officer Kaia Grant was only 33 years old when she gave her life in the line of duty on March 21, 2020, serving on the force for more than seven years. She was “the kind of officer who both generated and elevated the public trust with an uncanny ability to bring resolution to the unresolvable and with the capacity to communicate without barriers to earn the faith and confidence of the community at large, regardless of gender or ethnicity or position,” said Chief Wells of the Springdale Police Department. “Let the bond forged by tragedy sustain us in these times of great sadness to create healing through Officer Grant’s family, both blood and blue.”

When the remnants of their funerals are left to sweep, we must take note of the ultimate sacrifices for those sworn to defend and protect the communities they serve. The question to be asked of those who can no longer answer for themselves, is this: “Was it worth dying for?” Are we, as a community, worth the price of their lives?

As a society, there is a requisite purpose that must make their lives worth surrendering: That we are grateful in our hearts for the fact that they pin on their badges and kiss their families goodbye at every shift, never knowing if this is the day before their names will not answer at the next roll call.

We, as a community and as a nation, cannot continue to pollute ourselves with hatred and prejudice. It was on Memorial Day, just two short years ago, that our community leaders stood side by side with the Dayton Police Department against the rally staged by the Honorable Sacred Knights in order to condemn hatred. It was only one year later when all things venomous were directed at the law enforcement community, this time with a response of complete silence. The many thousands of men and women who encompass the thin blue line would gladly lay down their lives for their brothers and sisters in blue, standing watch together to separate the prey from the predator and the evil from the good. “Blessed are the peacemakers who embody this, for they will be called the true children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Dr. Platoni is a practicing clinical psychologist in Centerville, Ohio, a combat Veteran with 40 years of military service and four military deployments, and a member of Dayton SWAT. She was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 2019.

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