The city of Marshall hosted its annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service for fallen first responders on Wednesday at City Hall.
Though the ceremony was different from many past years due to regulations put in place to protect the community from the COVID-19 outbreak, representatives from a number of local law enforcement officers including Marshall PD and the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office met to pay homage to the fallen officers.
“We think this is important, even with everything that is going on right now,” said city spokesperson Stormy Nickerson.
The event was closed to the public, with only a select number of guests and media representatives allowed to attend in person to limit the capacity of the room. Attendees were seated six feet apart from one another throughout the event.
MPD Chief Cliff Carruth spoke first at the event, welcoming local law enforcement and city and media officials to the annual event.
“This is a tribute to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our community,” Carruth said. “We know that this is very different than last year, but we felt that there was a way to do this safe and give honor to those who have fallen.”
Carruth said that many agencies were unable to attend the service due to COVID-19, but still representatives were there to show support for fallen officers and their families.
“In the 31 years I have spent working in law enforcement its worth noting that at every event the officers are the ones that are running to the problem when everyone else is running away, to protect the public, and I think that says a lot,” Carruth said during the event.
He added that it is important to remember both the officers, but also their families, who are also affected by the sacrifices made by first responders.
“Too often that is forgotten, that even when an officer falls the family members of that officer live with that loss,” he said.
Harrison County Sheriff Tom McCool also spoke during the event, discussing the heart breaking number of officers lost every year.
He said that in January 2019 McCool told the court administration that officers were going to wear a memorial banner for every fallen officer in the United States and choose a day during the year to host a memorial for that officer and pay tribute to their sacrifice.
“But as it turned out there were so many officers killed, not only accidents but also by violent assaults, and there were so many officers fallen I never had time to coordinate a day for the memorial banner for any specific officers.”
McCool said that he ended up wearing that banner throughout the year, and is still wearing it not.
“That’s how many officers were losing,” he said.
A total of 1,627 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 54 hours or 163 per year. Texas has lost 1,773 officers, more than any other state. There were 135 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2019, 21 of those deaths were in Texas. So far in 2020, 32 line of duty deaths have occurred nationally, five of those line of duty deaths are from Texas.
McCool said that along with the expected dangers law enforcement officers face every day, in recent months they have been fighting a new danger with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
“We are out on the front lines and we have to interact with society and we can’t reduce our staffs,” McCool said. “Now our officers are also facing a medical crisis.”
He said that while there are no current numbers available on the number of law enforcement officers affected by the virus, many officers in larger cities are taking ill due to constant contact with the public.
“From my personal recollection large cities like Houston, Dallas, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles have many many dozens of officers effected due to COVID,” McCool said. “Because we can’t stop, we can’t back up. We are on the front line and we will continue to be on the front line because we are the only thing between a civil society and civil chaos. We are dedicated and that will never change.”
Music during the event was sung by Joe Buck Crisp, who has performed at the event a number of times.
“I am glad we have this morale in this town and I am glad to be a part of it,” he said. “I grew up where seeing police and sheriffs was a sign it was going to be okay. If you live half way right the police aren’t the uh oh folks, they’re the it’s going to be okay folks.”
During the event a number of officers from across the state who were lost in 2019 and 2020 were remembered.
31 total officers that were lost in Texas since January of 2019 were honored, with their names read aloud during the memorial.
Carruth said that anyone interested in supporting the families of fallen officers can donate to the East Texas 100 Club at www.Easttexas100club.org.
He said that the money donated to the club help supports fallen officers families, including police, fire, sheriff, jailers and prison guards.