By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
In the last few years, it seems the national attention has been more and more focused on law enforcement officers making bad decisions.
But in Wyoming, appreciation for law enforcement officers is the rule, not the exception.
So as the country observes National Police Week May 11-17, the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in Douglas is giving Wyoming residents a chance to observe a ceremony to honor the brave men and women who have lost their lives while protecting and serving their communities.
The ceremony planned at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Memorial for Friday, May 20, is a reminder to law enforcement officers and the public that the role of a peace officer is a serious one, said academy Director Chuck Bayne.
“It brings a sense of reality and soberness that (the job) is not all fun and games,” he said. “It’s very serious. This is not a role in a movie.”
In 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day. The week in which May 15 falls is designated as National Police Week – a recognition established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962 to recognize those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.
In Wyoming, this year’s Fallen Officer ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, May 20, in front of the Law Enforcement Academy.
“We have a marble monument that’s here in front of the academy that all of the names of the fallen law enforcement officers in the history of Wyoming, their names and the dates of which they passed are engraved on that memorial,” said Bayne.
Since 1776, there have been 25,767 known line-of-duty deaths in America, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
In Wyoming, the list totals 68 officers who have lost their lives, most recently Lt. Mark “Mont” Mecham with the Green River Police Department, who died on April 3, 2017, from a gunshot wound. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Mecham was one of 36 officers in the course of Wyoming’s history who was killed by gunfire.
Bayne, who has been involved in Wyoming law enforcement for the last 41 years, told Cowboy State Daily that the annual ceremony honoring fallen officers is very personal to him.
He listed eight officers he knew who had been killed in the line of duty, including Converse County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Stanford, who drowned in 2011, and Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Chris Logsdon, who died in an automobile crash in 1998.
“So, I have quite a number of personal experiences of knowing these guys as partners and colleagues in law enforcement – and the longer you’re in this business, I guess, the more chances you have of that,” he said.
Bayne said that in his role as the director of the Law Enforcement Academy, teaching new recruits the skills they need to be effective officers, he tries to educate trainees about the hazards involved in their chosen career – and the annual remembrance ceremony is a sobering reminder.
“It’s that these things do happen and can happen to them,” Bayne said. “And we try to teach them about what they need to do to help prevent being on the (memorial) wall.”