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Chester County Press

Editorial: Definitions, applied selflessly

04/18/2017 01:23PM ● By Richard Gaw
At the start of the last annual awards ceremony for the officers of the former New Garden Township Police Department on April 13, New Garden Supervisor Randy Geouque -- who also serves as a commissioner with the new Southern Chester County Regional Police Department – delivered an opening address that attempted to define what makes a good police officer.
Geouque held up the results of a Google search he had recently made that listed 90 traits and characteristics that define a good police officer. He ticked off a few of them: Approachable. Level-headed. Passionate. Open-minded.
“That just goes to show you the list of things that we ask our police officers to be,” he said. “Whether they are receiving recognition  tonight or not, I truly believe the officers on our police force  demonstrate the traits that I just spoke of on this list.”
Geouque's words served as a narrative backdrop to the stories of heroism that those in the audience were about to hear.
On June 13, 2016,  Erick Shute of Great Cacapon, W. Va., was prepping for the “end of times.”  He hid behind a tree and opened fire with an assault-style rifle on Sideling Hill Mountain in Morgan County, W.Va. Shute shot and killed Jack Douglas of Great Cacapon, and Travis Bartley and Willie Bartley, both of Hedgesville, W. Va., ambush style. He fled the scene and began to drive eastward, toward Chester County.
Later that evening, New Garden Police Officer Ryan Kushner acted on information he received about Shute, and initiated a traffic stop. Kushner located the suspect's vehicle as he left New Garden Township and entered Avondale Borough, and subsequently arrested Shute, a man who had just killed three people, without incident. 
On Feb. 23, 2016, Sergeant Joseph Greenwalt and Officer Jeremy O’Neill responded to a call from a co-worker of an individual who, according to the caller, had exhibited signs of despondency. When they arrived on the scene, Greenwalt and O'Neill were told that the co-worker was nowhere to be found. They soon widened the area of their search, and came across a parked and running vehicle about 50 yards from the building. There, inside the vehicle, was the person they had come to find. He was attempting to commit suicide by carbon monoxide asphyxiation. Immediately, Greenwalt and O’Neill pulled the man from his vehicle and administered aid, and were soon assisted by Avondale Station #23 personnel.  The victim was transported to Jennersville Regional Hospital, where he was admitted for treatment. He survived.
 “It is a shame that in some areas of the country there seems to be a divide between the police and their community,” Geouque said. “Police officers' actions are scrutinized by our society to the nth degree. We as a society are quick to pass judgment without even knowing all of the facts.
“Are there bad police officers out there?” Geouque asked. Sure, there are, he answered, “but the percentage of those officers is so small, so miniscule, that it is not fair to group them with the majority of officers, who are really good.”
We are not able to explain why we are drawn more toward the light of spectacle than by the dull glow of regimen. We do not know what causes us to slow down to observe the shattered remains of a car crash. We are not able to explain why we fixate on the public breakdown of a celebrity, or why the worst displays of our law enforcement have become viral sensations.
The actions of Kushner, Greenwalt and O'Neill are not uncommon to law enforcement, but because they were not caught on a bystander's i-phone does not make them any less of a story. They are the simple acts that help to define what Geouque was talking about on April 13. We choose to write about them here because they are part of what defines a good police officer – definitions, applied seflessly.