Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Fallen officers honored Fri.

Monroe County hasn't lost an officer in the line of duty since Deputy Melissa Powers, 36, crashed her cruiser into a parked crane in Key Largo the night of June 22, 2010.

But the dangerous occupation draws a steady body count across the nation, with 120 officers killed on duty in 2012, including 49 by gunfire and 21 in car wrecks.

Though the 2012 total was far lower than the 169 officer deaths reported in 2011, 120 slain in a calendar year works out to almost one fatality every three days.

"After reading these statistics, who would ever want to be in law enforcement?" Key West police Chief Donie Lee asked the crowd of about 90 gathered at Bayview Park for the somber service.

"Believe me, these men and women don't do it for the money," said Lee.

"They do it because they are heroes willing to answer the call and put service before self."

Proclamations from city and county officials were read, and an honor guard and a quartet from the Police Pipe Drum Corps of Florida took part in the half-hour service.

Though brief, it included a host of memorials: A wreath of yellow and white flowers was laid in honor of those killed, after a 21-gun salute blasted from the park.

Between 2010 and 1901, the Florida Keys counts 10 killed on the beat.

Their names were read aloud, along with those of the five officers killed in Florida last year; two were shot, one was stabbed and two died in motorcycle wrecks.

At one point, deputies and police officers turned on the red and blue flashing lights on their cruisers and two undercover sports cars as another ritual of respect for the dead.

Speakers reflected on the bravery of those in uniform.

"I come every year," said Kathleen Ford, a 32-year resident of Key West originally from Detroit, Mich. "I was married to a police officer, and then I dated an officer who died. I like to acknowledge those who sacrificed."

City Commissioner Tony Yaniz, who with fellow Commissioners Teri Johnston and Clayton Lopez presented the city's proclamation marking the week in honor of law enforcement officers, gave a rousing tribute.

"They do it because they love their family, neighbors, community and their county," Yaniz said, prompting one officer in the back of the crowd to softly cheer him. "That unselfish bravery, in my book, is what it's all about."

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said he knew six of the 10 officers killed in the Keys between 1901 and 2010.

"As safe as the Keys are, no one's exempt from potential tragic events," said Ramsay.

"This is a dangerous job -- a job we do because we love it. We get kicked, punched, bitten, spit on, threatened; this is part of the job."

Ramsay, elected last fall, was second in command as undersheriff for eight years.

He noted his current administrative role is far different territory than that of the nearly 35 officers in attendance Friday evening.

"I'm mostly behind a desk these days," Ramsay said. "My hat's off to you."

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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