Local News

Loss Unites Law Enforcement Community

Posted July 14, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Understandably, law enforcement officers from across the state are taking the death of Raleigh Det. Paul A. Hale pretty hard. Hale was fatally shot Friday in the line of duty.

In Johnston County, it has hit particularly close to home. Deputies say that when reports reached them of Hale's death while working, their own memories of losing Johnston County Deputy Paul West nearly two years ago came flooding back.

This weekend many dispatchers wore their support on their badges.

Phyllis Edwards and Gwen Rice know what it's like to lose an officer in the line of duty, and they say it is always something that haunts those involved.

Deputy Paul West was also fatally shot; he was gunned down in rural Johnston County while attempting to serve a warrant. His assailant was subsequently arrested in New York.

Edwards was at the control board and was first to hear the ominous signal 25..."Officer Needs Help."

Gwen Rice recalled the experience but says there are no words to express the trauma and shock everyone feels.

Edwards said it's the instincts that kick in, with training guiding officers to do what is necessary.

"He's the first priority, where he is, what type of situation he's in and get him help, to look after him," Rice said.

The greater law enforcement community looks after -- and worries about -- each other as well.

"(Here in Johnston County), we're one department, but all departments are linked together," Edwards says. "We're all here for the same reason, to serve and protect.

Rice believes it's that common goal that creates a bond between departments. And why a loss of an officer in Raleigh can be felt all the way to Johnston County -- and across the state.

"With the situation in Raleigh, we've all lived it, we can relate to it," Edwards says. "We know what they're going through. It brings back a lot of memories. A lot of memories.

Edwards carries her memories of Deputy West on her wrist in the form of a slim metal band bearing his name. But the memories of his death are also with her every day.

"I don't sleep, even now I don't sleep," she says.

The feeling is deep enough that even the passage of two years' time can't wipe it away. "There's healing," Rice says, "but there's still a lot of pain. There always will be."

Johnston County sheriffs say Paul West's name was added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial and for the past two years, they've gone to look at it.

They ruefully add that the next they go up there they'll be looking for Officer Paul Hale's name as well.