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U.S. Cops Have Been Dying In the Line of Duty Since 1791

U.S. Cops Have Been Dying In the Line of Duty Since 1791

It’s important to understand that peace officers come from all walks of life in America. They are not an occupying army; peace officers are us – citizens who serve other citizens.

BY DAN KLEIN

“I John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate May 15, 1963, and May 15 of each succeeding year, as Peace Officers Memorial Day, in honor of those peace officers who, through their courageous deeds, have lost their lives or have become disabled in the performance of duty.

I also designate the week of May 12 through May 18, 1963, and the calendar week during which May 15 occurs of each succeeding year, as Police Week, in recognition of the service given by the men and women who, night and day, protect us through the enforcement of our laws.”

During the month of May, I invite you to attend at least one of the Peace Officer Memorial events that will be held in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy will hold its memorial at 9:30 a.m., May 25, at 4491 Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe.

The City of Rio Rancho will hold its memorial at 4 p.m., May 27, at Veterans Park, 750 Pinetree Road SE.

The Southern New Mexico Law Enforcement Memorial will be held at 10 a.m., May 10, at the Las Cruces Convention Center, 680 E. University Ave.

It’s important to understand that peace officers come from all walks of life in America. They are not an occupying army; peace officers are us – citizens who serve other citizens.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, the first line-of-duty death of a U.S. peace officer occurred in 1791 when Darius Quimby was shot and killed in Albany, N.Y., while serving a warrant.

Over the past decade, on average, 150 American peace officers die in the line of duty each year. The majority of those deaths come from automobile crashes. The first officer to die in a car wreck was U.S. Marshal Charles Day, who died in Arizona in 1918.

The Albuquerque Police Department has lost officers Jeffrey Russell (2002) and Richard Armijo (1958) to car wrecks. Other agencies that lost officers to car crashes are Bernalillo County (deputies Francis Miera, 2010; Angelic Garcia, 2001; and Ray Davis, 1969). Rio Rancho lost officers Germaine Casey in 2007 and Anthony Haase in 2015.

In 2015, the Albuquerque metro area was shaken by the killings of Rio Rancho Police Officer Anthony “Nigel” Benner and Albuquerque Police Officer Daniel Webster, as well as by the shooting of Albuquerque Police Detective Jacob Grant. Grant survived but is permanently disabled.

We gather to honor all fallen peace officers.

These include Washington County, La., Deputy Oneal Moore (1965), a black man who was slain because of the color of his skin; and Corporal Dennis Engelhard (2009), an openly gay trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol who was struck and killed by a vehicle.

New York City Police Department cadet Mohammed Hamdani, a Muslim, died while saving lives on Sept. 11, 2001. He was honored with a full police funeral by NYPD, yet his name still does not appear on formal lists of NYPD dead.

These last three were – are – treated as second-class citizens because of their race, religion and love, yet they still served and sacrificed all. Sadly, there is no greater love than to lay down your life for an all-too-often ungrateful nation.

Gail Cobb of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (1974) was the first female officer slain in the line of duty. She was also the first black woman officer killed in the line of duty. Omaha, Neb., police officer Kerrie Orozco (2015) was gunned down days after she had given birth and right before she was to start maternity leave.

Navajo Police Officer Alex Yazzie (2015) was slain while on patrol in Arizona. Homeland Security Special Agent Jaime Zapata (2011) was killed by drug cartel members. U.S. Marshal Zacarias Toro Jr. succumbed to illness related to 9/11 – in 2015, 14 years later.

These are but a few of the officers I hope we’ll remember. I hope we also remember those officers who may not have died while on duty but for whom the stress of the job certainly took their lives. Officers who commit suicide or who turn to drugs or alcohol often do so to ease the pain of sights none of us can understand. They deserve our compassion and assistance.

The national police memorial in Washington, D.C., has more than 20,758 names. Peace officers come from all walks of life. They represent all races and sexual orientations. In short, peace officers represent America. This month, take the time to thank them.
Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him via Facebook and Twitter via @Dankleinabq.

(Photo credit: crowdalbum.com)

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Dan Klein

Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him via Facebook and Twitter via @dankleinabq.

Latest posts by Dan Klein (see all)

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Sara MacNeil is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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