There are very few of us who leave for work wondering whether we'll ever return.

A cop lives with that thought every day.

That's something every single one of us should think about as our community mourns the tragic loss of Whitesboro Police Officer Kevin Crossley, who was killed last week when his patrol car collided with a pickup truck on Oriskany Boulevard at the intersection of Westmoreland Street.

Some questions will never be answered. But one thing we do know is that Officer Crossley loved his job and the community he protected. That's clear from the outpouring of support following the horrible accident that took him from us at the age of 34. Far too young.

Kevin Crossley was a Whitesboro kid. He grew up in the village, son of George and Linda Crossley, and graduated from Whitesboro High School in 2002. Like many of our sons and daughters, he didn't stray far from his hometown, jumping right into public service by volunteering with the Whitesboro Fire Department, where he once served as captain. He graduated from Mohawk Valley Community College with a degree in criminal justice and later completed the Police Academy at Cazenovia College.

Crossley's first police job was with the Town of Whitestown, and seven years ago he became a fulltime patrolman for the village of Whitesboro. Police Chief Dominick Hiffa described him as an upbeat person who liked to smile.

“His whole life dream was to be a police officer. His job was his dream,” Hiffa said. “He loved his job. He was a great guy to work with.”

Our experiences with police officers aren't always pleasant ones. We get stopped for speeding or running a stop sign, have a traffic accident or otherwise require police assistance due to some unfortunate circumstance. As a result, our attitude toward law enforcement officials can sometimes be a bit skewed.

Until we need their help. And help us they do.

In today's world, police officers are more at risk than ever before. Last year, 135 of them across the nation died in the line of duty from causes ranging from gunfire and drowning to assault and vehicle pursuit, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. The average age was 43.

Gunfire was the leading cause of officer deaths, but automobile accidents ran a close second. Of the 135 deaths last year, 46 were from gunfire; 28 from auto accidents. So far this year, the Officer Down Memorial Page reports 39 deaths of police officers while on duty.

Officer Crossley brings the total to 40. That's 40 too many.

It was with a touch of irony that the day that saw a multiple-agency procession to Whitesboro honoring Officer Crossley was the 11th anniversary of Utica Police Officer Thomas Lindsey’s death. Lindsey was shot and killed on the night of April 12, 2007, as he approached a vehicle during a traffic stop at the corner of Neilson Street and Eagle Street in Utica. He was 32.

It's unfortunate that it takes a tragedy to remind us of the dangers our law enforcement officers face every day as they go about the business of making our communities safer. Take a look at some of the mugs that appear in the newspaper or online police report and ask yourself if you'd want to deal with such characters. Our police officers do most every day.

And the next time you diss the cop at a radar checkpoint, stop to consider that he or she might save the life of your child or grandchild from a speeder. Or a drunk driver. Remember, they are police officers, but they also are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends. And their hearts are ever bit as breakable as yours.

Police officers are more often than not in harm's way because that's what they do. Whitesboro's Kevin Crossley, like his brothers and sisters in blue, had a steadfast commitment and dedication to his profession because he loved being a cop and wanted to make his community a better, safer place. And he died doing that.

This community will forever be grateful and proud of him for that. And he will be missed. 

• Services today and Wednesday

The public may pay its respects to Whitesboro Police Officer Kevin Crossley today from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Oriskany Street West in downtown Utica. The funeral Mass will take place at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Law enforcement walkthrough will begin at 10 a.m. at the Aud.

Arrangements are being handled by Dimbleby Funeral Home in Whitesboro.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist his family with expenses during this time: https://www.gofundme.com/officer-kevin-quotbingquot-crossley