One way or another, their jobs claimed the lives of six men commemorated Friday at the Washington Area Police Memorial Service.
Virginia State Trooper Andrew Fox was hit by an SUV while directing traffic at the State Fair. Baltimore Officer Forrest Taylor was rushing to assist a fellow officer when an SUV ran a red light and hit his vehicle.
Prince William County Officer Chris Yung’s motorcycle hit a guardrail while he was en route to another crash. Prince George’s County Officer Adrian Morris crashed into a guardrail while chasing a suspect.
Montgomery County Officer William Talbert died of hepatitis C, three decades after he got a bad blood transfusion after he was struck by a drunken driver. Alexandria Police undercover narcotics officerMorton Marshall Ford died of complications from an infection he got 30 years earlier when he was wounded in a gunfight during a liquor store robbery.
But as several speakers noted during the service honoring the six law enforcement officers who died in the region in 2012, police work steals part of an officer’s life every day.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts cited the missed weddings and birthdays when officers are called to duty.
“An officer’s family sacrifices all those precious moments,” he said.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the stresses have grown in recent years.
“Every day, officers are critically injured,” she said. “They are assaulted, and they put their lives on the lines. But they do it, with budget cuts, and the loss of staffing, and with the sequester and furloughs. They still come out and do their jobs every day.”
Friday’s ceremony was part of National Police Week, when tens of thousands of officers from around the United States gather in Washington to honor those who have died in the line of duty.
Ronald C. Machen Jr., the U.S. attorney for the District and the grandson of a Chicago police detective, said the officers who died were not just protecting the community but were also enriching it by mentoring young people and raising their families.
“Everyone who lives in this community owes them a debt of gratitude,” he said. “They were not only outstanding professionals, they were outstanding human beings.”
Several officers said events like Friday’s memorial are bittersweet because they are reminded of colleagues they have lost.
Prince George’s Police Cpl. Ken Hibbert said he had known Morris, who came to the United States as a teenager from Jamaica, ever since Morris joined the police department’s youth program for high school students.
“On a day like today, we miss him even more,” Hibbert said.
Hector Dittamo, whose son, Paul, was the last District police officer to die on duty when his car crashed while responding to a call in 2010, said the memorial helps surviving family members fulfill a vow.
“Our promise to them is, we will never forget,” said Dittamo, who heads the local chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors.
Batts said he used to avoid memorial services because they reminded him of his own mortality. Then he went because his job required it. But an encounter with a widow helped persuade him to go gladly.
“I wondered when the ceremonial pomp was over, did it make a difference?” he said. “ So I asked the wife of an officer whose husband was lost a decade ago.”
Her reply: “I just want you to remember my husband’s life was relevant.”
Batts looked down Indiana Street toward a drum corps playing “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.
“I get goose bumps when I hear those bagpipes,” he said.