Most members of the community hold a special appreciation for those who are sworn to keep us safe, our protectors. We all feel a loss when law enforcers and other emergency personnel lose their lives in the service of others.
Residents of the Rio Grande Valley have felt that loss twice in recent weeks. Mission Police Cpl. Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta was killed in June during an exchange of gunfire with a suspected criminal. More recently, Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Moises Sanchez, who worked in the Valley, died this past weekend from gunshot wounds he suffered in April while responding to a traffic accident call in Hidalgo County.
Certainly, no one feels the loss more than these officers’ families — and that includes their professional families. Some 50 law enforcement officers from the McAllen, Edinburg and Mission area on Monday offered tribute to Espericueta by escorting his son, Joaquin, to his first day of school. Officers from across the state are likely to come to the Valley this week for Sanchez’s memorial service and to accompany him to his final resting place.
But others feel the loss. People who scarcely knew the officers, or never even met them, feel as if society’s protective bubble has been compromised. Many took to social media outlets to offer condolences to the families, share their own feelings or simply to learn more about these fallen public servants and their families.
Such is the power, and the value, of these public outlets — yes, the same media that allow people to spread hate and misinformation. In different circumstances they enabled people to monitor the condition of these officers, and later to share their grief and offer words of support to the families.
Used in this way, such media provide us ways to build bonds with each other, and with the law enforcement community, ways to inform ourselves and others about the issues of the day, and the catharsis of sharing our feelings about major events, whether personal or public.
Social commentators have long talked about changes in policing, and in public perceptions of police, often noting that in days of old the local officer walked the beat and personally knew neighborhood residents. Placing officers in patrol cars gave them greater mobility, but at the cost of lost personal interactions — and consequent loss of trust, people say.
Public reactions to tragedies involving officers suggest that the trust is still there. It might be why reports of officer misdeeds or questionable uses of extreme force elicit such visceral responses — people might feel that their trust has been violated.
Just like social media brought people together to share their grief and console each other, perhaps they can be used to strengthen community bonds not only among residents but also with our protectors. After all, the media are merely tools, and their use depends solely on those who use them.
Let us honor the sacrifices of Speedy Espericueta and Moises Sanchez by using the tools at our disposal to continue supporting their families, and to build a network of mutual support at all levels of our community.
Our heartfelt thanks and prayers go to these fallen heroes, and to their families.