Fatal crash reveals hazards of police work

February 01, 2001

Fatal crash reveals hazards of police work


photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Car wreckageThose who choose careers in law enforcement face dangers inherent to the job that can make it hard to understand its appeal.

"Sometimes I have that problem myself," said Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades who is a former Maryland State trooper.

Mades said when he started in police work 40 years ago the job commanded respect and society was different.

"Young people get into the job security and benefits, but after a while it's depressing. No one calls to say 'thank you,'" he said.

Nine out of 10 calls are for domestic disputes and often the police are seen as the enemy when they arrive, he said.


The most dangerous situation for a police officer is making a solo late night traffic stop, said Mades.

The accident Wednesday on Interstate 81 in Franklin County, Pa., that claimed the life of Berkeley County, W.Va., Sheriff's Deputy John Burkett, was fate, Mades said.

"You carry guns, a nightstick and pepper spray and have the best training - and this happens. Nothing would have prevented that accident," he said.

"It's like when the good Lord says it's your time, you have to go," said Mades.

"The best way to look at it is that a lot of jobs have some risk. People are willing to tolerate that risk to do something they really enjoy," said Hagerstown City Police Chief Arthur Smith.

"How many people have a job they really enjoy?" Smith asked.

Mades called law enforcement a fraternity that creates a bond that spans time.

"We make society a better place," he said.

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