Ronil Singh had just spent Christmas with his wife and baby before heading to work to patrol the streets of Stanislaus County as a police officer in Neuman on Tuesday evening.
He probably kissed them goodbye and felt the pang of being away from them as he set out into the cold evening to do the job he was sworn to do – protecting the rest of us so that we can sleep easy and enjoy the holidays with our families.
And he never came home.
Shortly after midnight on Dec. 26, Singh was gunned down after pulling over a suspected drunk driver and exchanged gunfire with the man that authorities now believe was in the country illegally. A statewide manhunt is underway for his killer who is believed to still be in Stanislaus County.
I wanted to write this column to illustrate that law enforcement officers like Singh never know when they leave the house if they’re going to come home – that even the most mundane of activities, like a suspected DUI traffic stop on a holiday night, could be the last call that they ever responded to.
But after I started to map this out, the President weighed in on the matter – politicizing his death as a way to drum up support for his effort to secure $5 billion in funding to go towards a border wall in a fight that currently has the entire Federal government partially shut down.
There are a lot of things that I could point out about how ridiculous that tweet was – like how $5 billion isn’t even close the amount needed to construct something like that, and how there are over 900 individual landowners along that border and the eminent domain fight could take a decade before it was fully adjudicated – but I don’t want to take away from the core issue of the sacrifices that our law enforcement officers and first responders make to ensure quality of life for the rest of us.
It’s not a lie that nobody ever thinks much of the police until they need them. Speaking for myself, I’ve been a bit hypocritical of how I view law enforcement by cursing them under my breath on the few times that they have stopped for speeding while at the same time calling them about once a month while on the freeway to report drunk, erratic, or out-of-control drivers. It’s all about keeping my family and others safe when I call something in, the same way it’s all about keeping other drivers and other families safe when I’m stopped for exceeding the posted speed limit – there is really no difference. To the officer who pulls me over or pulls over somebody else that I may have called in about, the intent is the same – there is nothing personal about it.
And a traffic stop can be the most dangerous thing that a police officer can encounter – as we learned this week. The intentions of the driver who is being pulled over are never known, and while the officer is fully exposed walking up to the car, it’s the driver that has the benefit of cover. People wonder why police officers can seem cold while writing you a ticket or less than friendly when they approach your car, but that’s probably because they’re vulnerable in a way that is almost never replicated in a line of work that champions safety above all.
Unfortunately, it has become fashionable to minimize these things – to take outlying examples of things that go wrong elsewhere and apply them across the board to all police officers. I saw more than a few hateful things posted on Facebook in the last 48 hours, and it’s truly unfortunate that people don’t take the time to realize that such extreme examples don’t really apply here at all.
The same can be said for politicizing the death of a man that gave his life in the noblest of pursuits simply to rally a base group of voters or use it as a political tool to gain the upper hand and the advantage. This shouldn’t be any surprise to me – I’ve seen this done by this administration on multiple other occasions, almost always for political reasons – but it stings a little bit more when it’s something that happens so close to home. The discussion about illegal immigration, and how to stamp out criminals from staying in the country, does need to be had, but perhaps it can be had after the man is laid to rest.
I really do hope this entire thing ends soon and without further bloodshed, as hunting somebody who is already facing the death penalty can become even more dangerous for those tasked with apprehending him – something that we learned in Oakland when a suspect that gunned down two patrol officers then ran and hid in a closet, and ended up killing even more police officers as they stormed the room to take him into custody. Nobody wants that, and the longer that he’s on the run, the higher the tensions go. Considering that he could be anywhere, it’s very unsettling to say the least.
My thoughts go out to Ronil Singh’s wife and young son, his family, and the wider law enforcement community that worked with him and knew him. By all accounts he seemed like a decent man, and it’s troubling that somebody would rather end the life of someone who made it their mission to protect others rather than the face the consequences of their actions – whatever those consequences may be.
Whatever he was running from couldn’t have been nearly as drastic as what he is running from now, and I can only hope that he doesn’t get very far.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.