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Tampa police Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab had a passion for a job that requires a selfless sense of public duty. The pair had already served two different communities by the time they were shot and killed at a traffic stop early Tuesday. Their deaths are the latest reminders of the dangers police officers face every day, and of the tremendous debt society owes them and their families.

The officers were killed after Curtis pulled over a car in east Tampa for not having a visible tag. He checked identification and discovered that a passenger, whom police named as Dontae Rashawn Morris, was wanted on an arrest warrant. Curtis followed procedure and called for backup, and Morris shot Curtis and Kocab as they moved to arrest him, police said.

The killing of a police officer shocks a community. It numbs the conscience to imagine how anyone could kill the men and women who are the first on the scene when someone else is in need. Curtis and Kocab, both 31, served their communities well in their young careers. Both had worked in law enforcement at other area agencies before joining the force in Tampa. There are almost no words for the senselessness in having lost two brave, young men who knew the ropes and by all accounts did everything right.

Mayor Pam Iorio and police Chief Jane Castor did well with the difficult job Tuesday of going before the cameras to express the public's anguish and to keep the community informed about an active manhunt. The decency and professionalism they showed was comforting on an agonizing day. Not since Detectives Randy Bell and Ricky Childers were gunned down in May 1998 has Tampa lost two officers in a single spasm of violence. And it was only last August that Cpl. Michael Roberts was killed while working his beat in Sulphur Springs. Crime may be down in Tampa and the nation, but law enforcement officers still pay a heavy price for dealing with violence at a moment's notice.

The community reached out with tributes and support for the families Tuesday, and there will be more in the days ahead. The city cannot bring these fine police officers back. But it can ensure that the department has the training, equipment and support it needs. The outpouring is in many ways a public affirmation of how well the department has been run and how committed the agency has been to strengthen its ties in the community. Curtis and Kocab were young, widely admired officers who made the city a safer place. Let us honor their sacrifice.