SARASOTA – This week in May is a somber time for law enforcement everywhere.
“Today’s ceremony takes place during National Police Week, an event established in 1962 honoring the men and women who proudly wear the badge,” Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said.
The 33rd Annual Law Enforcement Memorial recognized the ten law enforcement officers and two K9’s who gave their lives in the line of duty.
“Remember this is just Florida,” Colonel Kurt A. Hoffman of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said. “Nationwide there are dozens of other law enforcement officers that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Sarasota Memorial Hospital Public Safety Chief Mickey Watson says he was humbled and honored to read those twelve names.
“On the wreath in front of me, you’ll see three roses,” Watson said.
He says the red rose represents the blood shed by the officers, the blue is a symbol of the family and loved ones left behind, and the white is the purity of the officers lives and sacrifices they made.
Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino and Sarasota County Fire Chief Michael Regnier were among those placing a yellow rose as each hero’s name was called.
Though none of the fallen officers were local, Hoffman says they all are family
“The deputy I placed the rose for happened to be a graduate of Port Charlotte High School in Charlotte County, and we competed against Port Charlotte High School when I was in high school,” Hoffman said. “So there’s always a connection you have to these men and women.”
Hoffman said he was overwhelmed by community support, and hopes to make his fallen law enforcement brothers and sisters proud by wearing his badge every day.
“You have to carry on, one foot in front of the other, and go to work and do the job,” Hoffman said. “If we don’t go to work and don’t protect our citizens, that wouldn’t be the way that we would honor their lives.”
These are the Florida fallen law enforcement officers killed in 2017 in the line of duty:
-Deputy First Class Norman C. Lewis, Orange County Sheriff’s Office
-Lieutenant Debra Lucinda Clayton, Orange County Sheriff’s Office
-Special Agent Rickey O’Donald, United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation
-Officer Joshua Sanchez Montaad, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
-Correctional Officer Joe William Heddy, Jr., Escambia County Department of Corrections
-Master Sergeant William Trampas Bishop, Florida Highway Patrol
-Officer Matthew Scott Baxter, Kissimmee Police Department
-Sergeant Richard Samuel Howard, III, Kissimmee Police Department
-Sergeant Joseph Ossman, Florida Department of Corrections
-Deputy Sheriff Julie Ann England-Bridges, Hardee County Sheriff’s Office
-K9 Diesel, Sebastian Police Department
-K9 Freckles, Florida Department of Corrections