by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor
The Platte County Sheriff’s Office and partnering law enforcement agencies invite the public to visit several local memorials dedicated to fallen officers in recognition of Law Enforcement Appreciation Week, which runs from May 15-May 21.
Over the past two decades, a number of officers have lost their lives while safeguarding the property and lives of those in our communities. To give individuals an opportunity to reflect on the law enforcement officers that have made the ultimate sacrifice, memorials have been set up across the Northland.
On Monday, Cpt. Erik Holland with the Platte County Sheriff’s Office read the names of five local fallen law enforcement officers, including Fred Guthrie Jr. and his K-9 Reed with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Guthrie and Reed lost their lives on Aug. 1, 2011 when they were swept away by flood waters near Big Lake in northwestern Missouri.
Holland said Guthrie and other fallen officers can be honored in a number of ways, including by patrons visiting the fallen officers’ memorials.
In Riverside, a memorial is set up to honor Jeff Taylor, who died June 3, 2011 from injuries he sustained after he was struck by lightning while assisting the survivors of the Joplin tornado.
Another memorial honoring local heroes who have lost their lives is set up behind the Shoal Creek Police Academy in Clay County. Thomas Meyers and Craig Schultz are among the fallen officers honored at that memorial.
Meyers was killed on January 14, 1998 when a drunk driver crashed into him while he was assisting with an accident near Interstate 29 and Tiffany Springs Parkway. Craig Schultz was killed in 2001 in a motorcycle accident on Interstate 29 while responding to a high speed rollover accident.
Cpt. Holland with the Platte County Sheriff’s Office encourages the community to take time to show their support for law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty by perhaps visiting one of these memorials.
Additional ways to show support include flying flags at half-mast on May 15 to honor fallen heroes, wearing blue in support of law enforcement appreciation week, writing letters of support to local police department, and sharing a memory about a positive law enforcement experience on social media.
Pastor Rusty Savage with the First Baptist Church of Platte City said a special prayer for the fallen law enforcement officers and their families on Monday during the Platte County Commission meeting.
“We recognize and acknowledge the family members, including spouses, children, and parents of these officers that carry on a noble memory, but only a memory none the less.”
The situations law enforcement officers are walking into has become increasingly dangerous and hazardous. Law enforcement officers face the threat of bodily harm every day. In the United States today, they have the most dangerous occupation.
“In 2015, there were 123 deaths of law enforcement officers,” said Cpt. Holland. “While the total number of deaths of law enforcement officers is down 11 percent year to date, the number of deaths by gunfire is up 167 percent from the same time period in 2015.”
Due to these circumstances, law enforcement officers are finding it necessary to protect themselves from physical harm. Last year, officers with the Platte County Sheriff’s Office had to defuse difficult situations with a use of force 32 times. In most situations, officers use non-deadly force rather than deadly force.
Physical harm isn’t the only danger officers face. The mental stress of police work can lead to chronic stress. Law enforcement officers are at risk of developing heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
“We see these brave men and women that serve our county but sometimes when we see them as a deputy, sheriff or law enforcement officer we forget they have a family,” said Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner. He said it is important for people to remember this especially in light of sometimes difficult times these officers face.