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Heroes all? A word cheapened by overuse

Joseph Cespedes was a Manchester police officer for nearly six years, and before that he was a member of the NYPD. On Tuesday he pleaded guilty to accepting money and cocaine from an illegal alien drug dealer in Massachusetts in exchange for favors. It is the latest in a series of stories featuring New Hampshire police officers behaving badly.

Last week two Seabrook officers were fired for using excessive force against a 19-year-old man, whom one of the officers slammed against a concrete wall. This past spring, former Manchester officer Stephen Coco was sentenced to a year in jail for felony hit and run, which he committed in an unmarked police vehicle.

The Weare Police Department has settled multiple lawsuits after officers illegally charged motorists with wiretapping for simply recording the officers at work, and after one officer fatally shot an unarmed, fleeing suspect. And who can forget former New London Police Chief David Seastrand, who resigned in a deal with the Attorney General’s office last year after a young woman accused him of offering to drop charges against her if she posed nude for him.

Most police officers serve honorably in a tough job. A few do not. And yet we hear incessantly that all who wear the badge are heroes. Brave, yes. But heroes?

The same word is used often to describe all teachers and firefighters, even when the news carries stories of teachers sexually assaulting students and firefighters committing arson.

These are all difficult jobs that require a certain level of courage and dedication to one’s community. We are thankful that so many smart, honest, capable people volunteer to do them. But it cheapens the word “hero” to use it so casually. “Hero” is a term that must be earned; it is not handed out with a badge or a teaching certificate.

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