It happened in a flash – two Santa Cruz police officers stepped out of their car, as they had hundreds of times before, to interview 35-year-old Jeremy Goulet at his home. As they stood at the front door of the house, shots rang out – at them. Within seconds, they were dead.
We realize that Santa Cruz sees much more activity than Los Altos when it comes to crime and violence, but just the same, the news of their deaths was shocking. No police officer in that popular tourist town had ever been shot and killed in the line of duty.
The incident is one of many – too many – senseless shootings in recent years in which people with mental and/or anger-management problems had easy access to firearms and used them with horrific consequences. Obviously, these tragedies have spurred fierce debate among firearms enthusiasts and opponents over the accessibility issue.
The one area of debate on which both sides seem to agree is restricting/prohibiting firearms access to those with questionable mental histories. Unfortunately, it is hard to pin down the definition of “mental instability.” There are some obvious cases, but what about a seemingly sane person, with no prior record, under a lot of stress who snaps? What about an older, responsible adult who does something reckless at age 15 and has it forever on his or her record?
Back to Los Altos. In addition to great schools, one of this city’s prime attractions is what it doesn’t have: a high crime rate. Knock on wood, but there hasn’t been a murder or homicide reported here in more than 20 years. Except for a few bank robberies, including one last week, crimes are limited to burglaries and thefts. The research site NeighborhoodScout.com has just named Los Altos the 23rd safest city in the country.
Do such statistics provide a rationale for reducing the number of police officers? Of course not. Our department provides valuable services and is our insurance policy when people commit horrible acts.
Santa Cruz serves as a reminder that a police officer becomes a target every time he or she puts on the uniform. Any traffic stop or visit to a home essentially puts their lives on the line. Now that might sound exaggerated, but the fact remains that anything can happen, even here. We might not like the parking tickets, but we appreciate and thank our police officers for the job they do.