When a peace officer dies in the line of duty, the news reverberates far beyond the boundaries of the community he or she had served. Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, U.S. marshals, port and harbor police and on and on — there is a wider fraternity that mourns the loss.
The late Cpl. Shane Totty of the Baton Rouge Police Department was also a member of a particular fraternity, of motorcycle cops. He loved riding motorcycles.
He was mourned by Chief Murphy Paul and members of his department at the funeral at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge. He died Friday of injuries sustained when a pickup truck plowed into his motorcycle, during a funeral procession.
An officer since 2014, he had already survived one near-death experience. In February 2018, 34-year-old Eugene Thomas Jr., a man with severe mental health issues, shot into the windshield of Totty's police unit.
The officer had a long recovery but he never lost his zeal for service and his desire to ride a BRPD motorcycle.
His death has resonated deeply with his fellow servants of the people, but it also ought to be a wake-up call for drivers of vehicles: Watch out for motorcycles, and bicycles as well.
The mismatch between today’s seemingly ever-larger and more powerful vehicles is obvious, but even with helmet and training of a motorcycle cop, reckless driving on roadways can very easily be fatal in a collision between a car or truck and a motorcycle or bicycle.
Obviously, there can be riders of bikes of whatever sort who can be reckless and cause accidents. As with drivers of larger vehicles, they must follow the rules of the road and watch out for others. For that matter, pedestrians have to watch out of themselves and follow their “rules of the road” while crossing streets. Louisiana has a high rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities, too.
But as people rush ever more, the potential for fatalities rise. If a motorcycle officer can be killed under these circumstances, how much more vulnerable is someone without training and quicker reflexes?
In the case of Corporal Totty, the community has come together. His fiancée and baby daughter will receive a grant from a first-responders fund set up at the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
Small recompense, that, but another way that shows how much his community appreciates the service of so many others who help to keep it safe.
Across Louisiana, though, drive safely. Show some consideration for others. Don’t let a motorcycle or bicycle on the street get out of mind, because your car or truck is dangerous to life in even a small collision.