Crime scene tape cordons off the scene of a fatal shooting Friday night, February 14, in Hungry Horse. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)
This photo did not initially go with this blog. I wrote the blog a week ago, and while waiting for permission to publish it, further developments have occurred. Last night, for Valentine’s, I got called out to the scene of a fatal shooting about 20 miles down the road from where I live. The person I wrote this blog about was not one of the first responders I saw that night, but most of the people I saw there are those I have met through the Sheriff’s Department. One of the guys even got called away from a romantic dinner with his wife. He had to leave her to catch a ride home with someone else while he went to the scene of a shooting. The more I see…the more my respect grows.

This was the original start of the blog:
For more than a year I have had the incredible privilege of working with members of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department SWAT Team. It seems that I could write volumes about what I’ve learned, and who knows, maybe someday I will get to share some of the best and craziest stories I have witnessed. But this morning I am feeling awestruck and grateful over a phone call I just got.

A week or so ago I had a conversation with one of the guys about what he does to mentally prepare for his daily work. He’s a young guy with a wife and kids. How does he mentally prepare for the battle of every day? Because every day on that job is a battle. Every day there will be a trial to face, a challenge to overcome. How many days in a row can you witness the very worst and prevent it from making you jaded and cynical? How many times can witness heartbreak and find the balance between empathy and becoming hardhearted yourself? Today I got a follow up answer.

He asked me if I had been seeing the news? The story of the little girl in Tennessee who died after she was forced to drink 2.4 liters of fluid as a punishment. See the story here. Or the story about the “Napa mother and her boyfriend, who are accused of beating the woman’s 3-year-old daughter to death, admitted to police that they hid the child’s body in a suitcase inside a freezer for three days…” Here is the link. In response to these my friend said:

“At the end of the day people can hate me, but I will continue to do what I do because things like this keep happening. And I will not just sit idly by. Who knows, maybe, by doing this job, I may be able to prevent something like this.”

I have seen a lot in the news and on social media about how bad cops are, how they infringe of the rights of people, how their actions are not justified. And I would say in response to those critics: you have no idea what they face every day. If they don’t trust you, it’s because there have been too many times when they have trusted and been bitten. You may mean them no harm, but they don’t know that.

The more time I spend, the more my respect grows. So once again I am writing up a post with no photos, on a photography blog, because I wish we lived in a world where I could share these photos. I wish I could share the names of these guys and their pictures and tell everyone, how hard they work, how much they give, how incredible they are. But I don’t dare, because in this world they are targets. Their families are targets. And their privacy is paramount. And you had better believe, before I published this, I ran it past the guys, and the Team Leader, and their boss, just to make sure they are protected. But I wish, I really wish I could show everyone the photos I have been working on, photos of my heroes.