This past week, members of the Fraternal Order of Police gathered on the west front of the U.S. Capitol to pay homage to the 166 U.S. law enforcement officers who have died this year in the line of duty.
This solemn gathering takes place every May 15, the day President John F. Kennedy designated in 1962 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day. On that day, tens of thousands of police officers gather in Washington, D.C., to honor their fallen comrades, whose names are inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
One of the names added to that memorial this year is Jared Francom, the Ogden officer who was allegedly shot and killed by a drug dealer during a search of the suspect’s home in January. Five of Francom’s colleagues, fellow officers serving with the Weber Metro Narcotics Strike Force, were wounded during the tragic incident.
Officer Francom is survived by his wife, Erin, and their two daughters, Hailey, 4, and Samantha 5. Earlier this month the three surviving family members were present outside the Utah State Capitol to watch as Jared’s name was added to the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial. His name was inscribed on a plaque affixed to the granite wall under the words: “In Valor There is Hope.”
There, amid American flags waving in a steady breeze, the Utah Peace Officers Association presented the fallen officer’s family with the Purple Heart. Bagpipers then played “Amazing Grace” and an honor guard from Ogden rendered a 21-gun salute. It was an incredibly moving, bittersweet scene, similar to ones being played out at fallen officer tributes across the country.
As I have joined you over the past week in observing National Police Week, I’ve reflected on the tremendous dedication of Officer Francom and the thousands of law enforcement professionals just like him, both living and dead, who have sacrificed and given us so much. They are part of that long, blue line that has preserved the peace and protected us, their fellow Americans, for generations.
While the adage “All gave some; some gave all” is typically used to describe the sacrifice of American veterans, it applies just as much to our police officers who are placed in harm’s way and put in untenable situations as they go about their duties to protect and to serve.
Not surprisingly, casualties can and do happen with disturbing regularity.
In the U.S., for instance, more than 19,000 police officers have been killed since 1792, when the first known death in the line of duty occurred. In 1852, five years after the arrival of the Mormon pioneers, Salt Lake County Deputy Sheriff Rodney Badger became the first police officer in Utah to die on the job. He drowned while attempting to rescue an immigrant family crossing the Weber River.
More than 130 Utah law enforcement officers have died since. Today, a Utah police officer, on average, loses his or her life every eight months. These Utah heroes – male and female and representing most ethnicities -- are a diverse group. But as different as they are, they share in common their uncommon valor, devotion to duty and willingness, if necessary, to make the ultimate sacrifice.
It is my hope that we may all make time to visit the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial to recognize Officer Francom and the other fallen heroes on that wall. And as we carry on with our lives – the ones that they have helped make possible -- may each of us make time to thank the law enforcement professionals who now patrol our streets and neighborhoods and are carrying on their proud legacy.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah