Van Beek: Honoring those lost in the line of duty
Losing someone is hard. We all suffer loss, but for the families of law enforcement officers, it can be especially difficult, as it is sudden, unexpected, and done while protecting communities against the kind of pain their family is currently suffering.
The media is quick to broadcast events, where someone in law enforcement falls short of expectations, and of course, reports on situations where the officers and deputies sworn in didn’t possess the character and temperament demanded of their position and abused their power. However, they rarely speak of those who die valiantly, often painfully, at the hands of evil … the ones who threaten and endanger the safety and well-being of neighbors, friends, and community members.
That type of coverage often gives people the wrong impression of the majority of officers and deputies who risk their lives, on a daily basis, to protect total strangers, with little recognition.
Being there to protect those who are unable to protect themselves, even at great personal risk, is a calling that few in law enforcement are able to ignore. It is a mission in which they are willing to leave their families, to protect the lives of total strangers, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. They understand that someone must make the sacrifice.
There are more than 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States. In 2021, there were 43,649 assaults against law enforcement officers (this includes federal, state, and local agencies).
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Some have paid the ultimate price and never made it home. Their children, looking at the door waiting … their spouse, wishing they would have said something different before you left … plans gone, dreams crushed, special moments no longer possible. Just emptiness and pain.
While each circumstance varies, the mentality is the same: they wear their invisible superhero cape and run towards the danger while pulling everyone else out of harm’s way. No time to think of themselves, only in stopping the threat and saving lives.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, “In 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls, as National Police Week. Established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962, National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.”
These brave heroes brought honor and respect to a job they did so selflessly, and they inspire us daily, with their dedication and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty … all the way to the end.
Theodore Roosevelt, giving a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris, on April 23, 1910, famously said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Respect. Honor. Remember.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which maintains the largest, most comprehensive database of line-of-duty officer deaths, and conducts research into officer fatality trends and issues, has added 556 law enforcement officers to the memorial this week in Washington D.C. There are currently 23,785 names engraved on the Memorial, from between 1838-2022.
At the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial in Golden, seven were memorialized this year:
Officer | Name | Department | End of Watch | Panel-Line
- Dillon Michael Vakoff Arvada, Colorado, P.D. 9-11-2022, 47-E-33
- James Miller Campbell, Colorado Game & Fish Department, 10-15-1945, 43-W-34
- Robert Eugene Sandoval, Denver, Colorado, P.D. 10-29-2020, 2-W-34
- Peter A. Walsh, Denver, Colorado, P.D. 11-23-1918, 47-E-33
- Frank Sam Potestio, Denver, Colorado, P.D. 11-22-1918, 60-E-33
- Andrew Steven Peery, El Paso County, Colorado, S.O. 8-7-2022, 16-W-34
- Marion Ernest Sanders, El Paso County, Colorado, S.O. 12-20-1923, 17-W-34
Thus far in 2023, 226 federal, state, tribal, and local, law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty.
We honor their service and are forever grateful for their sacrifice. May they rest in peace.
James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.