Officers remembered at service
By Shelley Smith
SALISBURY — Since 1927, Rowan County law enforcement agencies have lost eight of their own in the line of duty.
Their lives and service to Rowan County were honored Tuesday during the 16th Annual Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service at First Presbyterian Church as part of National Police Week.
Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten welcomed everyone, and read from the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics.
“As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence and disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice,” Auten said. “All of those that have gone before us, that’s what they strived for.”
The last sentence of the code, he said, summed up the duty of a law enforcement officer: “I will constantly strive to achieve those objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my profession — law enforcement.”
Deputy Chief Steve Whitley spoke on behalf of the Salisbury Police Department.
“This is a very special day for us,” he said. “This is a very solemn occasion for us, and always poses the question, why in the world would you want to be a cop?”
Whitley said it wasn’t for the money, and it wasn’t for the accolades, and he quoted the Bible.
“No greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” he said.
Like emergency services, firefighting and the armed services, Whitley said, each person in that agency has chosen the profession and “they genuinely care, be it a local thug or an international terrorist.”
“So today, this week, we gather to remember our fallen officers who gave the last full measure of service to our brothers and sisters,” Whitley said.
Rowan County Sheriff’s Chaplain Rev. Mike Taylor said officers today don’t get the respect and appreciation they deserve.
“In these days, with violence and crime on every hand, instead of being appreciated, (officers) are almost an enemy to society,” he said.
But every officer across the nation will be remembered and honored this week as National Police Week continues.
Bobby Clement, 14, son of Spencer Police Officer Robert Clement, who was killed June 3, 1999, has been coming to the memorial service for the past 11 years. He said each year it gets easier for him and his mom, Lunda Eller. His favorite part about attending, he says, is to see that people care.
“To see all the people that come out to support all the officers that are killed,” he said, is what makes life without his father a little easier.
Two officers were killed in the line of duty in North Carolina this year: Inspector Timothy Charles Barnes, with the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles License and Theft Bureau, who died July 28 from heat exhaustion during training, and Greene County Deputy Sheriff Jon-Michael Willis, shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance.