Fallen officers honored at memorial service

Dozens of citizens, along with well over a hundred Pasco County law enforcement officers, joined together at the Historic Dade City Courthouse to honor fallen officers — both past and present.

Fallen officers, both locally and nationally, were honored during a 90-minute ceremony at the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service on April 29.

During the solemn occasion, several speakers — including Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera — discussed the importance of law enforcement, commemorating those that have fallen, and those who presently serve the community.

Lopez-Cantera highlighted the state’s 2015 crime rate dip, saying, “We talk about how great it is to live in Florida and we talk about how many people are moving to our state, but don’t think for one second that we don’t always remember and recognize that we would not have these communities, these businesses moving to Florida if we did not have a 44-year low in our crime rate.

Dade City Police Chief Ray Velboom addresses the crowd at the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service at the Historic Courthouse in Dade City. (Kevin Weiss/Staff Photos)

Dade City Police Chief Ray Velboom addresses the crowd at the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service at the Historic Courthouse in Dade City.
(Kevin Weiss/Staff Photos)

“We do not forget that these men and woman protect our families, protect our business and even protect those that level meritless criticism against them,” Lopez-Cantera added. “We say, ‘thank you’ to those that have served, currently serve and their families.”

Dade City Police Chief Ray Velboom told the crowd he hopes “some year we could come to these services to remember those that have only lost their lives in the line of duty in the past, and we would have no new names to add to the memorials here or across the country.”

The 35-year veteran of law enforcement pointed out nationwide increases in line-of-duty deaths by gunfire, with 17 incidents thus far in 2016.

“We wonder why this is going on and despite all the many changes we’ve made over the years, we still see the violence and the death,” Velboom said, noting there’s been a national upheaval in policing since the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. The shooting prompted protests for weeks in the city, a suburb of St. Louis.

“While it’s been proven the officer acted appropriately, the event cast a shadow over the department, its practices and cultures,” Velboom said, adding “and law enforcement all around the country is being painted with that same broad brush.”

Velboom acknowledged the importance of law enforcement officers to earn the trust and respect of the citizens they serve to prevent issues in the future.

“We must continue to work on building positive relationships with our community and be as transparent as we can,” he explained. “We must work on this every day, with every action.”

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco discussed the cultural significance of the “thin blue line,” a symbol of solidarity for police officers and their families.

More than 100 law enforcement officers and dozens of citizens were present for the memorial service.

More than 100 law enforcement officers and dozens of citizens were present for the memorial service.

“We sometimes hear a few people talk about the thin blue line in a negative manner — where they think the blue line represents a policy where law enforcement officers have a protocol…to protect criminals who wear a badge,” Nocco said.

But Nocco said, “We actually hold the greatest responsibility to hold up the integrity of the badge, especially to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while wearing it,” Nocco said.

Despite recent negativity and pessimism toward law enforcement nationwide, Nocco, Pasco’s sheriff since 2011, said, “our world consists of men and woman, and families who understand there is good and evil in this world and evil must be defeated, no matter how ugly that may look.”

The sheriff went on to say, “Most importantly, our world is made up with true heroes, who are filled with so much bravery and love that they’re willing to give up their earthly body to protect another human being.

“We honor their sacrifices — not just on one day, but every day,” Nocco said.

 

Pasco County fallen officers

• Lieutenant Charles A. “Bo” Harrison

End of Watch: June 1, 2003

Cause: Gunfire

• Deputy Sheriff John Herbert “Bert” McCabe

Pasco County Sheriff’s Office

End of Watch: June 26, 1948

Cause: Automobile accident

• Deputy Sheriff William Henry O’Berry

End of Watch: Jan. 1, 1926

Cause: Gunfire

Constable Arthur Fleece Crenshaw

End of Watch: Oct. 4, 1922

Cause: Gunfire

Deputy Sheriff Sheldon S. “Shelley” Nicks

End of Watch: May 8, 1909

Cause: Gunfire

Others honored:

• Deputy Sheriff John Charles Mecklenburg
Hernando County Sheriff’s Office
End of Watch: July 3, 2011
Cause: Vehicle pursuit

• Trooper James Bradford-Jean Crooks
Florida Highway Patrol
End of Watch: May 19, 1998
Cause: Gunfire

• Federal Prohibition Agent John Van Waters
United States Department of the Treasury – Internal Revenue Service – Prohibition Unit
End of Watch: Oct. 4, 1922
Cause: Gunfire

• Federal Prohibition Agent John Van Waters
United States Department of the Treasury – Internal Revenue Service – Prohibition Unit
End of Watch: Oct. 4, 1922
Cause: Gunfire

 

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