Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Service

Yesterday was our annual memorial service - the time when we remember the 119 Kansas City Missouri Police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty to the service of the people of this city. Above are some photos from the event, and below are the remarks I delivered at the service:

I want to thank every one of you for coming today as we remember the sacrifices of the 119 men who gave their lives serving the people of this city. Additionally, we celebrate the eighth year that no name has been added to this monument. In its 135-year history, this is the longest the Kansas City Missouri Police Department has gone without losing an officer in the line of duty. We praise God for that and pray that another name will never more be inscribed here.

And yet, the men and women of this police department continue to serve, knowing that this might be their fate. Each time an officer gets in a patrol car or a detective goes to interview a suspect, they know that peril could be awaiting them. Most people don't have this worry when they show up to work every day, but police officers are a special breed. They have responded to a calling that would require them to daily put the safety of others before themselves. In return for this sacrifice, they receive little: occasionally a "thank you," but more often harsh words, bumps and bruises or worse. But to them it is worth it. To see the innocent protected, justice carried out, evil trampled and to be able to return to their families at shift's end - this is what they do it for.

Our department history is rife with acts of heroism and officers who gave everything to protect and serve others. Some you may have heard much about, like those killed in the Union Station and Paseo massacres. Others have slipped away into history. In memorial services like these around the country, we pledge to never forget the sacrifices these officers made in the line of duty. So I want to remind you of what some of these extraordinary men did. They were officers like so many on this department today - with families and friends and hobbies, but they, too, felt called to serve something bigger than themselves.

One of those is Officer Joseph P. Keenan. A flood had struck town on June 2, 1903. Officer Keenan attempted to take two people to safe ground in high waters, but his boat capsized, and he was swept away by the flood and drowned. The two men he tried to rescue, however, made it to shore and lived.

On August 24, 1916, 30-year-old Officer Glen Marshall responded to a call of a landlord being threatened by a delusional tenant. When Officer Marshall arrived, the tenant had broken through the landlord's door and was attacking him. The suspect ran when he saw Officer Marshall and his partner, Officer Phillip Neff, and the officers chased the suspect through the building. Officer Marshall was shot multiple times and died. Officer Neff was gravely injured and struggled with the suspect until they both lost consciousness. Officer Neff and the landlord - the man they had come to protect - lived.

You will see guarding the torch here today is Officer Randy Evans. He is the son of Officer Robert Evans, who was killed on October 14, 1971, when he was hit by a car during a traffic stop on 24 Highway. Despite the suffering and loss he and his family endured, Randy decided to serve his city just as his father did. He knows the risks all too well, but he has chosen to take them to protect others.

As in the case of Officer Robert Evans, even things that seem routine can put officers in mortal danger, and they know it. In 1992, Sergeant Jack Shepley and Officer Stephen Faulkner lost their lives when the helicopter crashed while tracking a foot chase. But does that mean officers today shirk away from the responsibility of flying the helicopter to track down criminals and find missing people? Of course not.

Officer Tom Meyers was killed January 14, 1998, while working a routine traffic accident on Interstate 29. He was standing by a Jeep that had crashed into a concrete median when a drunk driver struck and killed him. But knowing this danger, our officers continue to help motorists on highways and roads who have wrecked or need help on a daily basis.

Many of the 119 people on this memorial were killed doing things that our officers do dozens of times a day - responding to calls about disturbances, riding a motorcycle or transporting prisoners. Despite the inherent danger that lies in all of these, and with no promise of riches or fame, the officers of the Kansas City Police Department do their duty, day in and day out.

Whether it has been eight years or 108 years, let us vow today never to forget what the officers on this memorial did. Perhaps the best way we can honor their memory is to support and pray for the officers of the present - the officers who daily and knowingly do things that could lead to their names being etched here. Pray for their safety, and that no name will be added to this memorial ever again.
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