January 22, 2003 11:00 pm

The hopes and prayers of all Oregonians are with Clackamas County Sheriff Sgt. Damon Coates as he recovers in a Portland hospital from wounds suffered when he was shot in the head while taking a troubled teen into custody Jan. 9. Coates' recovery will take time, but indications are that the popular deputy has finally begun showing signs of improvement.

Coates was upgraded from critical to serious condition Tuesday and was responding to simple commands, though his doctors say the 42-year-old may never regain full use of the left side of his body. His rehabilitation will last for many years, said trauma surgeon Andy Michaels.

Coates was doing what hundreds of law enforcement personnel in Oregon do day in and day out — responding to a call and putting his life on the line in order to protect the safety and well-being of the public. No officer knows when a situation might turn violent. For that reason, the public owes law officers a debt of gratitude.

When an officer is injured in the line of duty, all citizens feel the pain. No words can truly express the appreciation the public feels for the work officers do. The family of Sgt. Coates simply needs to know that they are not alone in their sorrow, their hope and their prayers. All of Oregon is with them.