SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- In two incidents over a 36-hour span late last week, four Susquehanna Township police officers were assaulted during arrest attempts.
The incidents took place at Miller Lane near North Front Street and a Days Inn, also on North Front Street. The officers involved suffered minor injuries, according to Deputy Chief Jeffrey Vargo. The most serious injury came when a officer sustained a concussion after getting punched in the head.
Other officers suffered a sprained thumb, a sprained wrist, and a bloody nose after getting punched in the face.
"They actively resisted arrest, causing injury to our officers," Vargo said. "Unfortunately, it's not uncommon."
The two incidents, Vargo said, along with the police shooting last Friday in Philadelphia, serve as a reminder of the constant danger police officers face. In the Philadelphia incident, an officer was sitting at a traffic light when a man ambushed his car, firing multiple shots. The officer was shot three times and is expected to recover.
"Every day officers across this country, they put on the uniform and put on the gun belt with one purpose: That’s to protect and serve the community," Vargo said.
It's a pledge Officer First Class Christopher Croft takes seriously every time he gets in his squad car.
Croft, who graduated from nearby Central Dauphin East, enjoys interacting with the community more than any other part of his job. The Harrisburg area is home to him. On this Wednesday, he works a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift. As he drives around the township, he waves to a woman walking her dog through a neighborhood. Often times, he says, he'll visit Thomas Holtzman Elementary School and say hi to the children there.
"When you get out and interact with the youth in our community, you build those positive relationships," Croft says.
Youth interaction is a directive which comes from the top, Croft says, alluding to Susquehanna Twp. Police Chief Rob Martin, and is echoed by Deputy Chief Vargo.
"I think it begins at home. It’s the upbringing," Vargo says. "Unfortunately, this day in age, I don’t think that message is being taught at home."
If they can't get to the kids at home, they get to them at school. In the meantime, all Susquehanna Twp. officers can do is be safer when they're on patrol. Vargo says at night or on domestic calls, two units respond to every scene. It's their way of being extra vigilant, he says.
"The potential is always there for violence against the officers, and its always in the back of their mind," Vargo says.
That uncertainty can be fearful, Croft admits, but that's why "we wear the badge."
"You don't know what you're going to walk into," he says. "But we’re not going to back down to anything. That’s what we get paid to do. That’s what we signed up to do. We’re going to keep policing."