‘Thin blue line’ all in it together: Lind
JEFFERSON — Order over chaos. Maintaining that societal balance is something those in the law enforcement profession struggle to do every day.
“No matter whether you work for a city police department, a sheriff’s department, a state or federal agency — no matter the color of the uniform you wear — we are all part of the ‘thin blue line,’ and we are in this together,” Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent J.D. Lind said during the Jefferson County Chiefs and Sheriff Association annual Law Enforcement Memorial Day ceremony Wednesday.
The ceremony outside the Jefferson County Courthouse drew citizens and law enforcement officers from around the Jefferson County area, as well as state Sen. Steve Nass.
Lind, who has been with the state patrol for 23 years, acted as keynote speaker for the event.
“It’s truly an honor to stand here today to pay tribute to the brave men and women of law enforcement who selflessly made the ultimate sacrifice and died in the line of duty,” Lind said. “Currently, there are 20,789 names engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.
“Of those, 278 are names of law enforcement officers from the State of Wisconsin,” he added. “Unfortunately, we will be adding many other names in the near future.”
Lind noted that the first recorded police officer line-of-duty death in the United States occurred on Jan. 3, 1791, when Constable Darius Quimby, of the Albany County, New York, police department, was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a man on a trespassing warrant.
The first Wisconsin law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty was Sheriff Robert D. Lester of the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department. Lester was ambushed and shot in the back on March 2, 1844.
“Today, we come together to pay our respects to two law enforcement officers who served in Jefferson County and who made the ultimate sacrifice and died in the performance of their duty,” Lind said. “Deputy Sheriff William Cooper — end of watch, Feb. 8, 1902, (and) Police Officer David A. McKee — end of watch, April 9, 1968.”
Cooper was 49 years old at the time of his death. He had responded to a domestic dispute. He was shot in the chest at close range and killed.
“Knowledge of Deputy Cooper’s sacrifice was pretty much part of forgotten history until about 2010,” Lind explained. “The citizens and law enforcement community of Jefferson County, when learning of the incident related to Deputy Cooper’s death, set out to make certain he was honored appropriately.”
Information regarding the events leading up to Cooper’s death resulted in action being taken to add his name to the law enforcement memorials in Madison and Washington, D.C.
“Although Deputy Cooper’s contributions and sacrifice were all but forgotten for over 100 years, it is a testament to the law enforcement community here in Jefferson County, who came together to make certain he was given his proper place as a hero within the law enforcement profession,” Lind said.
McKee, a member of the Fort Atkinson Police Department, was 38 years old when he died. He had served in law enforcement for 14 years.
“Officer McKee exemplifies the meaning of hero for his actions on the day of his death,” Lind said. “A 16-year-old boy had fallen into the frigid Rock River. Upon arriving on the scene, Officer McKee stripped off his gun belt, coat and shoes and jumped into the river in an attempt to save the young man. Unfortunately, he became exhausted while struggling with the panic-stricken boy and both drowned.”
His body was located and recovered in the Rock River about two hours later. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife and their six sons.
Three of Officer McKee’s sons — Dan, David Jr. and Dennis — were in attendance. The three men were honored with a round of applause.
Lind explained that, last May, he had the privilege of attending the National Law Enforcement Memorial Service in Washington D.C. to commemorate the addition of Wisconsin State Trooper Trevor John Casper’s name to the memorial wall.
“While I was looking at the names on the wall, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of both sorrow and pride,” Lind said. “Sorrow for the lives lost while trying to protect society and to make the world a better place. But pride in such a noble profession that, knowing the dangers of the work as protectors of the innocent, police officers continue to go to work each day and respond to calls that often put them in harm’s way.”
Unfortunately, he said, he will be making that trip again next year to see the name of Trooper Anthony Borostowski added to the memorial.
“The Wisconsin State Patrol has suffered the loss of a trooper in the line of duty on seven occasions,” Lind noted. “The first line-of-duty death occurred in 1972 when Trooper Don Pederson was brutally murdered in an ambush set up by a teenager he had cited earlier that evening.”
Three years ago, the Wisconsin State Patrol began a program in which a wreath is lain annually and ceremoniously at the gravesites of its fallen.
“The first time I arrived at the grave of Don Pederson in Green Lake, Wis., to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony, I was met by his wife, Mary,” Lind said. “I had never met Mary before, but she came up and gave me a big hug. She told me she was very grateful for the acknowledgement of Don’s sacrifice, but she did ask me, ‘Where has the State Patrol been for the last 40 years?’”
He continued: “I had no idea what to say to her other than, ‘I committed our agency’s renewed sense of obligation to honor the sacrifice of Don and the sacrifice of the others in our agency, and to never again ignore our duty to remember and to pay tribute.’”
Law enforcement professionals are a family, Lind said. As such, they must protect each other and, when necessary, console each other.
“The families of our fallen are part of our law enforcement family,” he noted. “The significant contributions and sacrifice to law enforcement by Deputy William Cooper and Officer David McKee, along with the other 20,000-plus individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice, must never and will never be forgotten.
“Civil unrest, the senseless and continued assaults on those who wear the badge, can test our resolve,” Lind added.
“However, we must never forget the importance of what it is we do as law enforcement officers,” he said. “Through commitment, dedication and passion for a career in law enforcement, we can and we do make a difference.”