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UPD to Remember Fallen Officer Robert Langley

Robert Langley (Submitted Photo)
Robert Langley (Submitted Photo)
The University of Mississippi Police Department will hold a memorial service at noon Friday (Oct. 21) in Paris-Yates Chapel on the 10th anniversary of the death of Officer Robert Langley, who was killed in the line of duty in 2006.

Langley was killed while assisting with a traffic stop on Jackson Avenue near the edge of campus. He left behind a wife, two sons and two stepdaughters.

The driver of the vehicle that killed Langley, who was an Ole Miss student, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years. The tragedy shocked and saddened the UM community and prompted changes aimed to create a safer campus environment.

“We really want to remember Officer Langley, but we also want to share with officers how it feels to lose a coworker in the line of duty and how important it is to stick together and support each other,” said Ray Hawkins, associate director of UPD. “We want them to understand they may be called to give the ultimate sacrifice and if they do, that sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

Hawkins was Langley’s supervisor and planned the service of remembrance. Tim Rutledge, director of the Mississippi Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support, will be the keynote speaker, and several former UPD officers will reflect of the life of their friend. The public is invited.

Langley, 30, served in the Mississippi Army National Guard and had returned from a deployment to Afghanistan six months before he died. He also had become certified to work with the university’s K-9 officer, Truus, and served on both UPD’s motorcycle and bike patrols, among other duties.

UPD Chief Tim Potts, who came to Ole Miss just last year, said Langley left a legacy of service that is an example for many.

“Though I have only been at UPD for just over a year, Officer Langley’s death left a void in our community,” Potts said. “As he lived his life with a servant’s heart, his legacy lives on and continues to inspire all who knew him.”

Hawkins said he will always remember Langley as a hardworking man who treated coworkers like family.

“He was a very concerned, caring person,” Hawkins said. “He came from a very meager background and he really worked hard to create a life for he and his family. I remember him being so humble. There was nothing he was asked to do that he wasn’t willing to do.”

Hawkins traveled with the Ole Miss band as part of the security detail for a football game in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the night Langley died. That was his last road game.

“It was an unbelievable shock,” Hawkins said. “It’s hard to grasp. I’ve never gone to another away game since then because I’ve always had that fear that if I leave, something else is going to happen and I’m not going to be here to help. I stay close by just in case.

“It really affected our whole department because we were really tight-knit.”

Lafayette County Sheriff’s Deputy Lynn Webb, a former UPD officer who rode on the motorcycle unit with Langley, had worked with him on the night shift but was transferred to a different shift. She was reassigned to the same shift as Langley the week he died and got to spend the last few days working closely with her good friend.

Webb, who will speak at the memorial service, said she, Langley and the other UPD officers were a close group who often hunted, fished and rode all-terrain vehicles together when they weren’t on duty. She remembers Langley as fun-loving, but someone who worked hard to be the best at his job.

“He loved what he did,” Webb said. “He loved trying to take care of people and loved his kids. He was a good man who died doing what he loved to do: working in law enforcement and helping others.”

The tragedy had long-lasting effects. A stretch of Jackson Avenue where Langley died was renamed for him and a marker was placed there. All UPD vehicles still have “B-5,” which was Langley’s radio call number, on them, and his picture hangs in the entrance to UPD.

Langley’s death sparked the creation of the Alcohol Task Force, which was charged with finding ways to make the university and Oxford community safer. As a result of the recommendations issued in 2007, the university created a two-strike policy for students with drug and alcohol violations.

The task force report also led to comprehensive health assessments of UM undergraduates, the creation of the Office of Health Promotion and the mandatory online education and prevention initiative, AlcoholEdu.

UM also launched an awareness campaign to explain the university’s expectations for student behavior on game days and other major campus events, as well as consequences of violating those expectations. The university and Oxford also created the Oxford-University Transit, a public transportation system.

Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, has worked to implement the task force’s recommendations to address concerns over students’ misuse and abuse of alcohol.

“Many excellent recommendations came from this group’s work and most have been implemented,” Banahan said. “But it’s not enough. We must do more, and that’s why another task force was appointed last year.

“We continue to learn more about alcohol and other drug misuse and abuse and how best to help students make good, safe choices. We are also doing more to support students who struggle with substance addiction and have successfully completed a recovery program.”

By Michael Newsom and Ole Miss News Desk

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