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Behind the Badge Memorial week: A tribute to Lodi’s peace officers

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Posted: Monday, May 7, 2012 12:00 am

George R. Turner, S.P.D. 1854 … Henry R. Baker, S.P.D. 1894 … Benjamin Ingram, T.P.D. 1915 … Frank Blondin, T.P.D. 1915 … The 18 names are reverently etched in gold on the tall, dark piece of stone, a memorial that stands quietly just outside the front door of the Stockton Police Department.

The names form two columns under five simple words — "In the Line of Duty." Dozens of people hurriedly walk past the memorial each day without glancing in its direction.

It's understandable. Everyone is in a hurry nowadays, and the losses on the stone don't register with the unaffected. The memorial has been there for years, silently and strongly bearing witness to the ultimate sacrifice made by San Joaquin County law enforcement officers for over 150 years. The memorial doesn't cry out for attention and respect from the distracted passers-bye. It has too much dignity for that.

Frank John L. Briscoe, S.P.D. 1917 … Francis J. Murphy, S.P.D. 1938 … Floyd N. Bristol, S.P.D. 1949 … George J. Woehrle, S.P.D. 1960 … This is Peace Officers Memorial week, when dozens of local law enforcement officers will gather near the memorial to pay their respects to the names on the stone and to those who lost their lives in the line of duty in California this past year. It's a moving event, with officers, family members, dignitaries and onlookers filling the lot in front of Stockton P.D. this coming Wednesday morning. There will be a short speech or two, department honor guards, the placement of memorial wreathes, rows of officers in dress uniforms standing at attention, and Taps. There are times during the ceremony when it is so quiet that you can hear the American flag gently flapping in the soft springtime breeze above the memorial. The names of the fallen officers will be solemnly read aloud as sort of our way of reminding them in the afterlife, "Hey, we haven't forgotten you."

Paul Stevens, R.P.D. 1972 … Nicholas P. Cecchetti, S.P.D. 1978 … Michael A. Coleman, S.J.S.O. 1982 … Dale E. Newby, C.H.P. 1982 … This week is a good time to reflect on what's going on in the world today. Violent attacks on law enforcement officers are on the increase in the Valley. The police have been referred to as the thin blue line between order and chaos. For various reasons, the thin blue line has been stretched so thin that it's almost invisible in some parts of the state.

Arthur E. Ford, S.P.D. … Dighton L. Little, S.J.S.O. 1989 … Timothy D. White, S.P.D. 1990 … Arthur P. Parga, S.P.D. 1993 … Robert "Bob" Winget, R.P.D. 2007 … We had an instructor at our police academy who sternly warned us one day that statistics indicated at least one of the 42 of us would die in the line of duty. Some cadets began morbidly calculating the odds in their minds. I think I saw one or two of them make the sign of the cross. I didn't want to look around the room because I was afraid someone might be staring at me. Bad juju. Some cadets scoffed at the notion. After all, we were young, full of knowledge and vigor, well-trained and invincible. Those statistics were for old men and bean counters. That wasn't going to happen to any of us, right?

… Rick C. Cromwell, L.P.D. 1998 … Rick and I were academy classmates. Unfortunately, our instructor was right and Rick lost his life in the line of duty in an accident on Kettleman Lane one sunny winter afternoon on Dec. 9, 1998. His name is on the memorial, right-hand column, seventh name from the top.

The Stockton Police Department, San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department, Tracy Police Department, Ripon Police Department, California Highway Patrol and our department have all lost officers on the streets of our county over the years. The officers knew the risks when they pinned the badge on their uniform the day they lost their life. But they went out there anyway, motivated by the fact that they were making a difference. Sometimes in a big way by chasing down a robber, pulling someone from a burning car or breaking up a fight. Or in a much more subtle way, like reassuring citizens simply by driving through a neighborhood in a black and white. Or by waving at a youngster on the corner who, at that moment, realized he or she wanted to be a cop. Or by putting their arm around a lost kid found shivering in a park. Or by spending just a few more minutes with a lonely senior citizen whose family doesn't stop by anymore.

Those 18 officers, as well as dozens of others across the state and nation, knew the dangers but they went out there anyway. They paid the ultimate price to keep our society safe, and we are obligated to always remember their sacrifice.

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