Every year in America, a little village of cops gets killed.
That translates to an average of 150 people with badges losing their lives in the line of duty.
This year, that number will sadly include two Cincinnati officers, Ronald Jeter and Daniel Pope.
Their pictures have been in the newspaper and on TV.
The next time you see their photos, look closely at those faces. Study them as they stare back at you from under their police hats. Commit their features to memory.
Ronald Jeter's round cheeks reinforced an infectious giggle that cheered up his fellow officers.
Daniel Pope's eyes kindly looked after injured stray animals. Remember those faces. Use them as constant reminders of how deadly a cop's job is. And how easily we take it for granted.
Got a problem? Dial 911. Call the cops. They'll be right there. Ronald Jeter and Daniel Pope were gunned down early Saturday. No one read them their rights, got them a lawyer or gave them a chance to appeal. They weren't put on probation or let out on bail. They were just shot in the head and left to die.
They went into an old, battleship-gray house on a hilly street littered with leaves and cup lids. And they never came out.
They've reminded us of how dangerous police work is and how good the rest of us have it.
Think about your job. When you kiss your spouse goodbye, when you give your kids that quick hug on the way out the door to work, do you wonder if you're going to make it back home? Cops do.
Daniel Pope's wife always sent him to work with two words:
That's a cop's farewell. And a wife's wish. Now, it's a widow's lament.
In the days to come, many questions will be asked about these senseless deaths. An investigation will look into how well the officers guarded each other's safety as they served an arrest warrant - around midnight and in plain clothes - for a case of domestic violence.
Much may be made of the 48-minute gap. That's the time that elapsed between the first 911 call and the convergence of police and rescue units at the scene of the shootings.
Whether the officers followed proper police procedure and how the 48-minute gap occurred won't matter for Ronald Jeter and Daniel Pope. They are dead.
The gap could have been 48 seconds; those two officers were still shot and killed by Alonzo Davenport, who minutes later turned his gun on himself.
Alonzo Davenport has been described by a neighbor as ''nice.'' I'm sure he was ''nice'' to someone. But in my book, he was a miserable excuse for a human being. He attacked the mother of one of his two little girls. He was charged with trying to choke the other. He was also wanted for allegedly using drugs and passing a bad check. He was out on probation. He didn't pay his bills and was about to be evicted. Worst of all, he killed two people.
Ronald Jeter and Daniel Pope should have finished their shift at 4 a.m. on that cold night and gone home to warm beds and safe dreams. If that had happened, we would not know their faces or see their pictures in the paper and on TV.
They would just be two guys, with badges, bulletproof vests and guns, doing their job.
They would be two more cops on a police force we call on for help and call on the carpet with equal ease.
The former calls go with the job. The latter ones all too often come with the territory.
For months, maybe years, to come, Cincinnati police officers will respond to calls for help and have two cops - and what happened to them - in the back of their minds.
We should remember them, too. But in a different way.
The next time we want to second-guess police actions or jump to conclusions about how the cops handled an incident, it would pay to pause for just a moment. Before we leap, we should look, once more, into the faces of Ronald Jeter and Daniel Pope.
Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.
Argument preceded shooting
Families lean on faith, memories
Friends, acquaintances mourn
Grief stays, say families who know
Police deaths declining
Community mourns fallen officers
Suspect's family: He was 'respectful'
Sequence of events
Officers highly regarded
Officers deal with sorrow, job's risks
Chief's message: 'Take care of each other'
Hollister St. residents shocked