Bastrop News

Police honor fallen brothers

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An overcast day and sporadic rain did not dampen an emotional ceremony Thursday morning honoring fallen peace officers held in the solemn setting of the Smithville Veterans Memorial. Peace officers from throughout Bastrop County – plus visiting Austin Police Department officers including two Air Support helicopter pilots who landed across from the memorial – were present for the emotional event.

Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week is a national observance that pays tribute to the local, state and federal peace officers who have died in the line of duty. The Memorial usually takes place on May 15 and Police Week is the calendar week in which the Memorial falls. 2014 was a deadly year for peace officers.

The FBI reported that of the 51 officers slain in 2014, 46 were shot, four were killed by vehicles, and one was beaten to death. Another 44 officers were accidentally killed in the line of duty – most in automobile accidents. Others were killed in motorcycle accidents, accidental shootings, by drowning, blunt force trauma and smoke inhalation. Twenty-seven officers were killed in 2013, the lowest number during a 35-year period.

Jackie Garrett, a victim services counselor with APD, was the featured guest speaker and gave a gripping talk. Garrett, who is married to an APD officer, described both the dedication it takes for police work and the dangers they confront.

“This is not a job – it’s a calling,” Garrett said of police work. She added that police officers are “always at the ready,” even if they are off duty and in plain clothes in a restaurant. She added that police know to take seat positions where they always have a view of the doors.

Garrett said she admires the “level of patience” police officers show “even with people calling them names – no way I could tolerate that.” At one point Garrett described police and their support network in metaphorical terms: “We are good sheep…but there are wolves out there.” Garrett choked up with tears at one point, when she said some parts of the country, “as of late, (have) turned on those who protect us.” Many of the officers wore a black band across the middle of their police badges, honoring fallen officers.

423rd District Court Judge Chris Duggan was one of the audience members who came to pay his respects to fallen police: “Every time (police) go to work, you don’t know if they will pay the ultimate sacrifice. What an honor to pay tribute here to those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Duggan said.

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