By Alyssa Schnugg
Each year, officers from local, state and federal offices gather with citizens to remember those police officers who died in the past year.
The annual Lafayette County Law Enforcement Officers Association’s Officer Memorial Service was held Thursday on the lawn of the Lafayette County Courthouse.
Representatives from the Oxford Police Department, Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department and the University Police Department all announced they had not lost officers in the line of duty in the past year.
However, the nation lost 458 federal officers in 2021 with 301 deaths caused by COVID-19.
Nationally, Peace Officers Memorial Day is recognized on May 15 and is part of Police Week, an observance that pays tribute to the local, state and federal law enforcement officers who have died, or who have been disabled, in the line of duty.
Investigator Micah East from the Sheriff’s Department was emcee for the ceremony. At the start of the event, East spoke of the recent death of retired Oxford assistant chief H.C. Franklin, who died Monday at the age of 98 years old.
“It saddens our heart to lose a great man but we can rejoice that he is in his final resting place,” East said. “We will take the watch from here for him.”
Guest speaker, OPD’s Capt. Donovan Lyons shared with the crowd the story of a dark day in 2002 when his friend and fellow police officer was killed in the line of duty while Lyons worked for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
“What makes someone put on a uniform every day, go out there into the unknown and put their lives on the line for people they don’t know? What makes a person wake up every morning, say goodbye to their loved ones and walk out the door, knowing they may never come home again? What makes a person wear so many hats in a profession where a wrong decision made in a split second can cost them their career or their life? One word keeps coming to mind – obligation. Not obligation in a negative sense but rather, ‘I have to do this. I’m compelled by a higher sense of purpose. I cannot go about my day without worrying about who is taking care of ‘them’ – the defenseless, the young, the old.’ Some refer to it as a calling but for many like myself, we chose this profession because we felt obligated to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
The OPD Mounted Patrol attended the event on horseback along with one “riderless horse” to pay tribute to officers who died and left their mount behind.
Closing out the program Thursday 21-gun salute by the Oxford Police Department Honor Guard, the lowering of the American flag to half-mast and a Sheriff Joey East placing a memorial flower reef near the Law Enforcement Memorial Marker.
Video by the Oxford Police Department