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Honoring AFSCME Public Safety Members During Law Enforcement Week

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / iClifford
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By Pete Levine ·

During Law Enforcement Week, we honor public safety officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. We also recognize the unique role that first responders like AFSCME law enforcement members play during times of crisis.

In 2019, three AFSCME-represented officers were killed or died in the line of duty. Their names, along with the names 135 other officers who died in the line of duty in 2019 (in addition to 172 officers who are being added from years prior), totaling 307 officers, will be engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

Those officers are:

While the annual memorial ceremonies will not be held in person in Washington due to the coronavirus pandemic, a virtual candlelight vigil will be held in its place on May 13.

Law Enforcement Week, also called Police Week, is a time not only to pay tribute to those who keep our communities safe but also to spotlight the dangers they face and to acknowledge their constant presence, more important now during the COVID-19 pandemic than ever.

In the tightknit, rural communities of Fulton County, Illinois, Deputy Ryan Maricle says the COVID-19  pandemic hasn’t changed the way he and his fellow officers safeguard their communities, though it has meant taking extra precautions.

“Our challenges are the same as everybody’s. We’re trying to keep ourselves safe, while trying to serve our community properly,” says Maricle, a member of AFSCME Local 3433 (Council 31). Luckily, says Maricle, “People are truly abiding by laws.”

The impact of a crime committed in Fulton County is often felt deeply. Last June, Chisum, a Fulton County sheriff’s deputy, was killed in the line of duty while responding to a domestic violence call. It shocked the rural community.

“It was the worst event I had ever encountered in my life and career,” says Maricle, who was a close friend of Chisum. But Maricle and his fellow law enforcement officers also witnessed something uplifting. “I saw our community – people from all walks of life, even people who I knew had committed crimes – stand on the side of the road and show respect to a great person.”

In the more urban city of New London, Connecticut, Todd Lynch, who has served his community for 20 years as a state trooper and as a police officer for the past 12 years, says that while “people have their own perspectives about law enforcement,” a new appreciation for front-line public service workers has taken hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The recognition is so much more than what it was before,” says Lynch, president of Local 724 (Council 4).

While appreciation of public service workers has grown recently, that doesn’t affect the way Lynch and his fellow officers serve their communities. In a city where, during an 8-hour shift, he might respond to a range of crimes, from a trespassing to a domestic violence call to a murder, Lynch remains focused on getting the job done and keeping people safe.

Lynch says Law Enforcement Week is also a time to remember those who “are still on the front lines.”

One of the fallen officers, McLoud, was retired but died from work-related illness. Though he was from rural Cuyahoga County, he developed cancer after being assigned to work at a landfill following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

In Ponce, Puerto Rico, Correctional Officer Jessica Martinez, the president of AFSCME Local 3500, Servidores Publicos Unidos (Council 95), describes the challenges that come with both serving and protecting incarcerated offenders.

“We have to deal with a population of individuals who didn’t respect society’s rules, and their tendency once inside is to continue criminal activities,” says Martinez. “Our job is to protect life and property but we always go beyond that, being the key resource for inmates rehabilitation. This is not for everybody. You need a serious commitment to public service.”

Martinez works at same maximum security facility, Las Cucharas, where Rodríguez-Mateo was killed by an inmate in 2019.

You can pay tribute to a fallen law enforcement officer this year by lighting a virtual candle. AFSCME is a proud partner and supporter of the police memorial and museum.

Pictured (from left to right): Undersheriff Stephen B. McLoud, Deputy Sheriff Troy Phillip Chisum, Correctional Officer Pedro Joel Rodríguez-Mateo. Photo Credit: Officer Down Memorial Page.

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