The horrific death of Delmar police officer Keith Heacook after being brutally attacked on Sunday morning is a somber reminder of the dangers police officers can face every day.

Randon D. Wilkerson, 30, of Salisbury, faces murder and assault charges in Heacook’s brutal death and the attack of an elderly couple.

We know there are challenges with policing and problems with our criminal justice system. We need to address the inequities in our legal system (including policing) based on class and race. But we also have to acknowledge the dangers police officers face while performing essential community work and protecting private citizens.

Heacook was a 22-year veteran of the Delmar force. He died protecting the community. The incident shows the essential work officers and other emergency responders do every day. They are the ones on the front and often dangerous lines of protecting crime victims — including ones facing violence and abuse.

Police officers are often the ones who can first offer help to those dealing with mental illness, homelessness and addiction. We need to better equip them and our law enforcement and social service agencies to address these problems.

It also shows the challenges we face with police reforms.

This horrible incident and rises in crime in some parts of the Shore as well as big cities such as Baltimore, New York and Chicago show the essential need for police.

There are no doubts we need new approaches to policing and changes throughout the justice system. That includes a greater focus on mental health and addiction.

That does not mean defunding the police but instead requires more resources and efforts to improve training and support “good cops” and community policing.

But right now, we need to send prayers and condolences to Heacook’s family, friends and fellow officers.

The Delmar officer died protecting his community and his neighbors.

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