Dec. 9 came and went without much fanfare, with most people focused on things like Christmas shopping, the 49ers, and the bitter cold. To a lot of folks it was a regular Monday.
But Dec. 9 will always be a significant date for the Lodi Police Department family. It was on that day 15 years ago that Officer Rick Cromwell was killed in the line of duty. He was riding his motorcycle down Kettleman Lane when a man drove into his path and they collided. Rick died at the scene.
It’s been a decade and a half since that day, but Rick’s memory is still with us. I think about him every time I drive past that spot in the road in front of Burger King on Kettleman Lane, where the collision occurred.
Rick was a family man, a mathematical genius, and a great barbecuer. “King Crom,” as Chief David Main used to call him, was a man of conviction with a dry sense of humor and a passion for riding motorcycles. He was also my classmate in Delta College Peace Officer Academy Class 7-87.
Members of the department visit his gravesite during Peace Officer Memorial Week each May. The picture on his gravestone is how he would like us to remember him. He is in full gear, riding his motorcycle as he leads a parade Downtown.
During the memorial week, we travel to the Stockton Police Department, where Rick’s name is engraved on the memorial near the front steps of their station. His name is read aloud as part of the honor roll of San Joaquin County law enforcement officers who have given their lives in the line of duty over the past 150 years. Rick’s name is also inscribed on the California memorial in Sacramento and the national memorial in Washington, D.C.
Our training officers bring brand new LPD officers out to Rick’s gravesite to quietly pay tribute to him and to remind them of the costs of being a police officer.
Rick’s helmet, gun belt, ticket book and boots sit in a display case the lobby of the police department reminding visitors of the price he paid.
All of these acknowledgements are appropriate, but the one that would mean a lot to “King Crom” would be for the citizens of Lodi to pause and remember him and the officers who are out there every day putting their lives on the line to keep our city safe. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and he’d enjoy the attention. He made the ultimate sacrifice for our community and it’s the least we can do.