The same strength can be seen in Jorge Del Rio’s face in a photo taken during his first years with the Dayton police department as can be seen in a recent photo circulated after his life was cut short by two shots to the face.
The young man — rounder face, dark hair and dark eyes.
The 55-year-old man — stronger jawline, salt-and-pepper hair and those same soulful eyes.
No doubt those eyes saw things in the roughly 30 years between photo A and photo B that many of us don’t want to know.
No doubt those things were handled because Jorge Del Rio was there to help right our society’s wrongs.
No doubt things seen, heard and experienced had a profound impact on the police detective, DEA task force member, husband, father of five daughters, and grandfather of three girls and another grandbaby on the way whom he will never meet.
I didn’t know him personally, but by all accounts, Jorge Del Rio was a good guy.
“His work had impact regionally, nationally and internationally,” Chief Richard Biehl said during one of several press conferences that followed the Monday shooting.
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During his three-decade career, Del Rio received seven written commendations, two letters of appreciation and one unit citation. He did good deeds, some of which are noted in court documents and newspaper articles.
Millions and millions and millions of dollars worth of drugs were taken off our streets because Jorge Del Rio was good at what he did.
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Before his last breath, hundreds of police officers and drug enforcement agents gathered at Grandview Medical Center to honor the fallen officer, whose body was kept alive so his organs could be used to save lives.
Detective Del Rio was a hero like so many other first responders — among them the Dayton police officers who took down the Oregon District mass shooter: Sgt. William C. Knight and officers Brian L. Rolfes, Jeremy M. Campbell, Vincent J. Carter, Ryan D. Nabel and David M. Denlinger.
We celebrate their heroic deeds.
We want and need them to have focused eyes and strong jawbones.
We need them to walk down dark stairwells the way Jorge Del Rio did before he was stolen from his wife, daughters, granddaughters and that grandbaby on the way.
Detective Del Rio paid the ultimate price for serving the community. But the cost all of our heroes pay is often high, even if they make it home each night and get the retirement that should have been rewarded to Jorge Del Rio.
Surely some are just fine. But the things our heroes — police officers, paramedics, EMTs and firefighters and the like — endure lingers in many of their bodies and minds.
According to a 2015 national survey of 4,022 first responders by the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 86 percent of respondents experienced critical stress, described as “the stress we undergo either as a result of a single critical incident that had a significant impact upon you, or the accumulation of stress over a period of time. This stress has a strong emotional impact on providers, regardless of their years of service.”
A shocking 37 percent of those who responded to the survey had contemplated suicide and nearly 7 percent actually tried to take their own life, the journal said.
A Centers for Disease Control report from that same year says that 3.9 percent of Americans in the general population had contemplated suicide.
As my colleague Laura Bischoff has reported, a bill proposes to change a state law that requires an employee to suffer a physical injury tied to post-traumatic stress disorder before the condition is covered by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
For about a decade, medical professionals and police and fire unions have pushed lawmakers for the law that would automatically recognize PTSD as an acquired on-the-job condition for first responders covered by the bureau.
Businesses groups like the Ohio Chamber of Commerce have opposed the change, saying it is far too costly. Maybe there is a better alternative. Maybe not.
There is no doubt that we expect our heroes to do all the tough things Jorge Del Rio did.
Be brave. Care. Stay strong.
We earnestly mourn them if they fall. But shouldn’t we also address the risk to life, heart and mind they take on when seeing, hearing and experiencing things we don’t want to see, hear or experience?
There is no doubt in my heart or mind.
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