Four Price - Texas State Representative, Republican, District 87 | Police, Residents Honor Officers Killed In Line of Duty

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Police, Residents Honor Officers Killed In Line of Duty

May 17, 2012
Amarillo Globe-News

Law enforcement officers from throughout the Texas Panhandle were reminded of the dangers of their profession as they gathered Thursday at Llano East Cemetery to remember those killed in the line of duty.

“Each of you that are wearing a badge shows the same courage every day when you go to work and sometimes when most think you’re off duty,” Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said. “The ones we honor today were just like you in that regard and that should never be forgotten. You put yourselves in danger 1,000 times and come out untouched, or just once you go in and never come home.”

Thomas spoke at the annual law enforcement memorial service and wreath laying ceremony at the cemetery’s Field of Honor section, one of many taking place across the country as part of a National Police Week 2012.

In 2011, 166 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in the U.S., including 13 in Texas, Thomas said. This year, 36 law enforcement officers have lost their lives on patrol, including three in Texas, he said.

“Unfortunately the reason that we’re here breaks my heart, as it does many others here today, because we’re here marking another year of senseless and unspeakable tragedy that has occurred in our country and our state,” Thomas said.

Officers laid a memorial wreath at the field of honor as trumpeters played taps. State Rep. Four Price expressed his gratitude at the ceremony.

“I personally want to say thank you on behalf of the 168,000 people in District 87,” Price said. “I want to say thank you on behalf of all the other Texans in the other 149 House districts … thank you for your sacrifice.”

In 2011, Texas led the nation in officer deaths with 13, records from the Officer Down Memorial Page website. Florida had the second highest number of officer deaths with 12, the website states.

Twelve Amarillo Police Department officers have died in the line of duty, beginning with Capt. Preston George Burnam, who was killed by gunfire in January 1934, website records show. Most recently, Officer Mark Steven Simmons died Dec. 17, 2008, from injuries he sustained in a car accident March 24, 2005, department records show. Before that, Amarillo police Sgt. James Delbert Mitchell Jr. was shot on Nov. 11, 1985, records show.

The website shows a fluctuation in statewide and nationwide numbers of officers killed over the past five years. Between 2007 and 2008, officer deaths dropped from 201 to 152 nationwide and from 22 to 14 in Texas, records show, while deaths between 2008 and 2009 jumped from 139 to 165 in the U.S. and from 11 to 17 in Texas.

Amarillo police Sgt. Jeff Hooten said people’s overall sense of security and well-being may play a part in the fluctuation of officer-related deaths from year to year.

“I can’t help but think that the overall health of the nation has something to do with that,” Hooten said. “We’re talking about the economy, people are scared, out of jobs ... and they hear those messages. I think it has an influence (on people’s attitudes toward law enforcement).”

Police constantly refine their training and protocols to ensure the safety of citizens and law enforcement officials, Hooten said.

“I’ve done this since 1982, and it changes constantly,” Hooten said. “We train continuously. We change training. We’ve never stopped changing training. There’s never been one time where we’ve said ‘We’re here. We’ve arrived. We don’t need training anymore.’”