by E.J. Montini, Arizona Republic Columnist
(Column for Jan. 13, 2012 Arizona Republic)
Maricopa County Deputy Sheriff William Coleman was an exceptional man.
But he was not the exception.
At his funeral today there will be hundreds of men and women in uniform who would do (and perhaps have done) exactly what Deputy Coleman was asked to do on the night he was killed.
They sign up – all of them – to respond to calls like a burglar alarm going off, as deputies received last weekend from a medical facility near Anthem.
They go to such places and, if necessary, confront suspicious individuals, as did Coleman and other deputies.
If such an individual becomes violent they stop him, sometimes sacrificing their own lives.
As Deputy Coleman did.
The officers who fill the North Phoenix Baptist Church at Coleman’s funeral today are willing to do what he did.
Imagine that. When you watch news coverage of the funeral on television, or look at photographs of the service on the Internet or in tomorrow’s newspaper, marvel at how many of these men and women there are.
The procession of motorcycles and cars they drive will go on and on and on.
Their uniforms will come in shades of blue and beige and brown. Their badges will bear the names of big cities and small towns. Some of their hats will have broad brims. Others won’t. Some will wear boots. Others won’t.
They’ll be joined by firefighters and paramedics and other first responders.
Each of them is exceptional.
None of them is the exception.
Last year, after the death of another exceptional man, Glendale police Officer Bradley Jones, I spoke with Brian Livingston, executive director of the Arizona Police Association.
Jones and others who represent first responders had been through a bruising series of hearing at the State Capitol in which Arizona lawmakers essentially said that our police and firefighters were ripping off taxpayers by way of their pension benefits and union activities.
These same politicians were at Bradley’s funeral. Some of them will no doubt be at Coleman’s service.
“We had the big pension fight at the Capitol, and I raised this issue (of hypocrisy) and was chastised by lawmakers,” Livingston told me last year. “They told me they really do care. But now the reality is here. We see people who have been injured and will not get their cost-of-living increases, and it will put these families under stress. They say that they want the best and the brightest in this profession. And they get them in people like Officer Jones. Will that continue to happen if you keep going after their pensions and make them out as greedy?”
At those legislative hearings, and through similar attacks for other politicians and special interests, critics have singled out a handful of bloated double-dippers as examples of a broken system.
They don’t represent the vast majority of the men and woman who hit the streets every day and every night.
Tim Hill of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona told me, “Many of the people who have pensions in the private sector get health insurance, where we have many members who are having to choose between health insurance, which could use up most of a pension, or paying their bills. Folks aren’t aware that many of our members aren’t Medicare eligible or Social Security eligible. There was a guy who testified last year, a disabled highway patrol officer. He was in that position, choosing between health insurance and taking care of his kids.”
This isn’t something to argue about at a law enforcement officer’s funeral. But neither should it be forgotten after the officer is buried and we go on with our lives.
It should come up each time politicians try to make it more difficult for first responders, for the men and women who will fill the church today, lead the funeral procession, then hit the streets again tonight.
The William Coleman Memorial Fund has been established at Desert Schools Federal Credit Union For those wishing to contribute, the account number is 6000123586.
Coleman was a loving husband and father. A good friend. A brave and unflinching deputy. At his service today he will be mourned and praised and honored by hundreds of fellow law enforcement officers. Exceptional people.
Just like him.
On January 8, 2012 at at approximately 4:15 am, Maricopa County Deputy Sheriff William Coleman was shot and killed in the line of duty while responding to a burglary call in Anthem.
Deputy Coleman had served with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for 20 years and is survived by his wife and several children.
MPA will try to update the site with fundraisers on behalf of our lost hero. More information can also be found at the Arizona Police Association’s website.
Wednesday, January 11th
Deputies Law Enforcement Association will have a benefit cookout for Deputy Coleman at the PLEA Garage Grill. Lunch will be served from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm and dinner will be served from 5:00 PM until 8:00 pm. All are invited to support this event, with all the proceeds going to Deputy Coleman’s family.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
TIME: 8:00a.m – 2:00p.m.
LOCATION: Danny’s Car Wash
315 W. Bell Road, Peoria, AZ
All proceeds will go directly to the family of Bill Coleman. Bring your squad cars or personal cars and spread the news! This event is being sponsored by: MCSO ADVISORY POSSE MEMORIAL FUND. The MCSO Advisory Posse Memorial Fund is a non-political association that raises funds for Arizona Sworn Law Enforcement,helping Arizona Sworn and their families!