The heavy rain, which soaked through the dress blue uniforms of Washtenaw County Police Officers, began to slow as the shrill call of Herm Steinman’s bagpipes cut into the morning air Thursday. The officers stood at attention, lining Ballard Street in front of Memorial Park in downtown Ypsilanti, holding a silent vigil. Every year the scene repeats itself, every year a bell tolls for the names of men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
According to the Fraternal Order of Police, in 1962 President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation, which designated May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. Across the country, communities remember the officers who served and protected them without fail.
“National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others,” said Bob Heighes, Eastern Michigan University’s Chief of Police. “The Washtenaw County Law Enforcement Memorial is a sobering ceremony that causes you to pause and remember.”
The keynote address of the memorial was given by the Honorable Douglas B. Shapiro, of the Michigan Court of Appeals.
“This is a day we remember officers who lost their lives in the line of duty,” Shapiro said. “Their sacrifice must not be forgotten, but it is not enough to simply remember those who have fallen.”
According to Shapiro, in the last 20 years the cost of tuition to attend college has dramatically outpaced the raise in police officer’s salary. He wondered if it was too much to ask if those who protect our streets and our homes would be able to afford to send their own sons and daughters to college.
Deputy Chief of Police Melissa Overton, for the University of Michigan Police Department read the roll-call of Washtenaw County law enforcement personnel killed in the line of duty:
Ann Arbor Police Department
• Officer Headley Downey, May 9, 1963
• Officer Leonard Alber, May 31, 1956
• Officer Kenneth Payne, June 4, 1946
• Officer Clifford Stang, March 21, 1935
Chelsea Police Department
• Chief Riley Scott Sumner, April 13, 2006
• Reserve Officer Matthew Tuttle, April 13, 2006
Michigan Department of Corrections
• Correction Employee Tammy Sperle, February 5, 1996
Milan Police Department;
• Officer Steven J. Reuther, February 4, 1991
Washtenaw County Sheriff Department
• Deputy Harold Ewald, December 8, 1970
• Deputy Frank “Butch” Crampton, January 15, 1970
• Deputy Jerry Russo, January 14, 1967
• Deputy Leo Borders, August 3, 1966
Ypsilanti Police Department
• Officer Douglas D. Downing, July 11, 1975
Officer Joanne McAllister, University of Michigan Police Department, rang the bell for each name read aloud.
“When you hear the names being read and the bell tolling, it can bring chills to your body,” Heighes said. “We gather each year to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, and to show honor and respect to their memories and to the families of those who can attend. When a police officer is lost, it’s not just an agency that loses an officer, it’s the entire community.”