August 04, 2003 11:00 pm

Being a police officer can be a lonely business, patrolling alleyways and back roads in deafening silence from 2 to 3 in the morning.

Sometimes an officer may stop his patrol car in the middle of a highway and stand there for 10 to 15 minutes without seeing anyone pass by. Being a deputy sheriff in a rural isolated county in Oregon can also be a dangerous job. Just ask Jason Rehling.

Rehling is the officer who was shot in the face during a domestic violence call earlier this year in Grant County. He was hit by a shotgun blast that left a hole in his face on the right area where his mouth joins his cheek. Rehling was doing his job, a job that paid a little more than $24,000 a year.

So why would a wounded police officer need to have a fund-raiser to help pay for his medical bills or his living expenses? Because workers compensation doesn't cover all the costs of an officer's medical and living expenses. We don't want to fault workers compensation for the shortfall, after all that is the way the laws were written. But we will criticize the Legislature for not creating a fund or an insurance program that will pay all the costs of an injured police officer or firefighter who is hurt in the line of duty. These men and women should never have to worry about having every bill paid or receiving a full paycheck when they are recovering from injuries. After all, they are out there protecting all the citizens.

Sen. David Nelson, R-Pendleton, and Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, should lead the charge in establishing a funding mechanism that would make sure any public safety employee and his or her family would never have to worry about making ends meet when they have been injured in the line of duty.

Nothing is as lonely as walking out of an elevator or into a public mall with a disfigurement and having people gasp or duck out of the way. And nothing is lonelier than adding the worry of paying off bills that were not created by you, but received while protecting others. The least we can do as the citizens of Oregon is to make sure we cover the financial end of the burden.

Making wishes come true

Anyone looking to help fill a need in the community but doesn't know where to turn should keep an eye on the "Wish List'' that runs on The Observer's Community page every Saturday. A variety of area non-profit groups list some of their immediate needs.

Items listed this past Saturday ranged from refrigerators and children's books to scholarships and volunteers. Fourteen organizations have listings in the Wish List.

Anyone who wants to help make an impact in the community should keep an eye on the list and respond to organizations' wishes.