Bucktail Lodge 96 and William Hanley Lodge 67 of the Fraternal Order of Police conducted their annual Fallen Officers Memorial Service on Friday afternoon in the auditorium of Elk County Catholic High School. The event is held at a different location each year on or around May 15, which is designated as Peace Officers Memorial Day, and also corresponds with Police Week.
Sgt. Phil Hoh of the St. Marys City Police Department acted as master of ceremonies for the event and began by addressing area officials, representatives, and middle and high school students in attendance about its significance.
"Police memorial services are held to remember police officers who have been killed or died on duty; to demonstrate to relatives, friends and colleagues of fallen officers that their sacrifice is not forgotten; and to recognize annually the dedication to duty and courage displayed by police officers," Hoh said.
In particular, the service honored three area officers who lost their lives over the years in the line of duty: Officer Carl Whippo of the Johnsonburg Police Department, who was killed after being shot at his desk at the police station on Jan. 17, 1984; Sgt. David Distrola of the City of Bradford Police Department, who fell off a bridge on Dec. 23, 1989 while attempting to get out of the way of a car that was skidding on an icy roadway; and Officer Steven Jerman of the Kane Police Department, who was shot while conducting a routine traffic stop on Feb. 20, 1999.
Along with these individuals, the service also honored all of the law enforcement officers who lost their lives in 2010.
"The National Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation reported that in 2010, 152 law enforcement officers lost their lives in performance of their duties. Three of those were from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Hoh said.
Those individuals were Trooper Paul G. Richey of PSP Troop E, Franklin, who died on Jan. 13, 2010 after being shot during an incident in Cranberry Township, Venango County; Corporal Christopher Milito of the Delaware River Port Authority, who died Jan. 16, 2010 after being struck by a car on the Walt Whitman Bridge; and Wildlife Conservation Officer David L. Grove of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, who died on Nov. 16, 2010 after being shot while trying to stop individuals who were suspected of poaching.
In addition, Hoh explained that "Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week pay tribute to the local, state and federal law enforcement officers who serve and protect us with courage and dedication. These observances also remind us of the ongoing need to be vigilant against all forms of crime, especially to acts of extreme violence and terrorism."
Hiel "Butch" Bartlett, of the Bradford City Police Department and vice president of William Hanley Lodge 67, also offered remarks during the service, explaining to attendees that so far this year over 60 officers have been killed in the line of duty. He also indicated that statistics have shown a greater prevalence of deaths occurring between 8 and 10 p.m. Additionally, Fridays have the highest death rate for police officers.