No one knows better the danger that a tense circumstance can present than police in the United States. Constantly under pressure to control people who are guaranteed rights that provide them a wide latitude of no control, the scenarios that citizens can present range from the mundane to sheer terror, even for a trained professional. With that thought, we continue to reflect on moments in the history of law enforcement we wish we could get back, the sacrifices of those that have paid the ultimate price on our behalf.
Part-Time Police Officers
Most of us think of law enforcement officer positions as full-time careers. And for the most part we are correct. However, there are a number of positions out there that are part-time, and they are filled by people who come from a variety of perspectives. Some are hoping to take on a full-time career position, and are working part-time to gain some insightful experience. Some are strong members of the community who have some flexibility in their full-time careers, and are helping in a most unique way. Still, others are retirees who are looking to do something with their new free time enter these positions. Whatever the reason, these people expose themselves to the same dangers that full-time officers do, usually with less access to training due to the constraints of position defined in labor hours, and in some instances, by themselves, like our next officer.
Patrolman Richard Gordon Janczewski
Patrolman Richard Gordon Janczewski was a three-month veteran of the Avoca Borough Police Department in Pennsylvania, when on May 27th, 1986, he was on patrol of the town, when he stopped a suspicious vehicle along the wood line on Campbell Street, bordering the Wilkes-Barre International Airport. Patrolman Janczewski approached the driver, David C. Williams. Williams had recently had a series of domestic violence incidents at his former home with his spouse, and in the weeks prior to this evening, had a been served with a court order awarding full custody of his children to his wife, as well as a protection order, prohibiting him from harassing the family. It is unsure what transpired between Patrolman Janczewski and Williams, but what is clear is around 8:30 PM, Williams fired a round at Patrolman Janczewski, striking him in the chest. Patrolman Janczewski returned fire, from the ground, striking Williams in his right leg and chest. Williams then stood over the top of Patrolman Janczewski and executed him, by shooting him in the head. Williams then walked back a few feet and shot himself in the head. Patrolman Janczewski was 23 years old.
Officers became alarmed when Patrolman Janczewski did not return to the station at 11:00 PM, when his shift ended. They drove to his last known location, and found both he and Williams, behind Patrolman Janczewski’s patrol vehicle. During the death investigation, it was revealed that Williams had threatened his wife with a handgun, which led to the permanent protection order. This incident highlights why changes in radio procedures have been made over the years. While this incident happened a mere 32 years ago, it was incidents like this that led to dispatch centers making it mandatory to radio check officers in the field every hour at a minimum. The simple task of confirming officers are not occupied and in need of assistance can not guarantee a safe return, but it can be a proactive measure in getting them help sooner, if they ever need it. It’s a great way to honor Patrol Janczewski’s sacrifice. He was survived by his immediate and extended family.
In memory of Patrolman Richard Gordon Janczewski.