Dozens of law enforcement and corrections officers gathered in the lawn outside the Scottsbluff Police Department’s offices to pay their respects to fallen officers across the country at the annual Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony.
Attendees also recognized the hard work officers dedicate to their jobs. Several officers’ family members attended the ceremony alongside them.
Scottsbluff Chief of Police Kevin Spencer said, “This day is sacred as we honor those who have gone before us. We honor the memory of men and women of law enforcement who have made the ultimate sacrifice, to show our support and solidarity to their families who have been called upon to bear a special burden in hopes they will find comfort and peace.”
He thanked the officers and their families for their support, hard work and dedication to keeping the peace.
Scottsbluff Mayor Jeanne McKerrigan officially proclaimed the week of May 15 to May 21 as Police Week in the city and May 19 as Police Officers’ Memorial Day. She encouraged citizens to honor the officers of the community and gain a wider understanding of their daily work.
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Organizers held a moment of silence to honor the fallen. Dominique Salazar from the National Guard performed Taps on her bugle. A group of Honor Guard officers from the Nebraska State Patrol, the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Department, Gering Police Department and Scottsbluff Police Department fired off a 21-gun salute.
Judge Kristen Mickey of the 12th Judicial District served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony. He injected some brevity in his remarks.
“The judicial code of conduct permits my remarks today so long as they concern the law, the legal system and the administration of justice,” Mickey said. “To the extent that you believe any of my remarks go beyond those topics, please keep it to yourselves.”
Mickey discussed the serious nature of the duties law enforcement has to protect the community.
“Today, I wish to recognize each of you here in public service who are dedicated to excellence in your respective positions, working for the common good,” he said. “…You are an inspiration to our community by being good and doing good. … You are deservedly recognized as heroes.”
He encouraged the law enforcement officers to encourage anyone considering a career in the service to cultivate respect for the law and legal system and to live a life of earnest service to others.
“May God bless the men and women who compose the thin blue line. May God bless the judiciary, and may God bless the United States of America and the great state of Nebraska,” he concluded.
Different law enforcement officers provided their thoughts on the importance of the annual ceremony.
“This whole week, Police Memorial Week, it’s just powerful and emotional,” Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman said. He said it’s important to remember the officers who have fallen.
These include local officers, he said, such as Scotts Bluff County Correctional Officer Amanda Baker, who was killed by an inmate in 2014, and Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Jerry Smith, who died in a 2019 Morrill County automobile crash caused by a distracted driver.
Overman said he was glad the community is so supportive of its law enforcement.
“It’s a blessing for us to live here,” he said.
It’s not very common for different agencies to get along as well as the Scotts Bluff County ones do, he added. He said the different departments cooperate well with one another.
Scottsbluff Police Sgt. Philip Eckerberg said it’s a great honor to participate in ceremonies like Thursday’s.
“It’s a chance for us to remember. It’s also a reminder for us that things can go wrong and we need to be careful.”
It’s sad to see more and more officers killed in the line of duty, he said.
Eckerberg’s parents, James and Mary Eckerberg, were among the family members who attended the ceremony. They said it’s important to show respect for the officers who protect the community.
“It’s to give credit where credit is due,” James Eckerberg, who is also a former law enforcement officer, told the Star-Herald. “We depend on our law enforcement and we hold them in high regard.”