Community pays tribute to law enforcement officers

May 16, 2018 GMT

SCOTTSBLUFF — A large crowd gathered Tuesday at the Scottsbluff Police Department to pay tribute to law enforcement officers as part of National Police Week ceremonies.

Among the crowd was Kristen Skavdahl, who has lived in the area for four years. Though she played a little with her infant son, Jasper, who has started to wave and likes to laugh, she was at the ceremony for a more somber reason — to pay tribute to her brother, Officer Patrick Kramer. Kramer, who served with the West Yellowstone Police Department in Montana, was killed Oct. 22, 2006, in an automobile accident. He was attempting to pass two vehicles when his department SUV struck a sheet of ice and went out of control. The vehicle flipped over and landed on its roof, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page (www.odmp.org). He was 29 years old.

At the ceremony, Skavdahl wore a “Back the Blue” T-shirt and her vehicle sports a small tribute to her brother. She learned about the ceremonies through a post on Facebook and said she thinks it’s important to come to such events.

“It is important to remember those who gave all, especially now,” she said. “... Any positive police attention is a good thing.”

During the ceremonies,

Scottsbluff Police Chief Kevin Spencer opened the ceremonies, reading a proclamation highlighting National Police Week and May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Peace Officers Memorial Day was first proclaimed by President John F. Kennedy and services began being held regularly in 1982. Spencer and Mayor Randy Meininger talked about the sacrifices that law enforcement give for the public — including their lives — in the spirit of service. Skavdahl said her brother was one of those officers who sacrificed, without thinking.

“Patrick was just a lifelong supporter of the underdog,” she said. “If you were to ask him about his sacrifice, he would be honored to have given it.”

As of this week, Spencer said, 53 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty. In 2017, 135 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty.

National Police Week also highlights for the public the problems, duties and responsibilities of police officers, according to the proclamation read by Spencer.

Everyday, Meininger said, officers put their lives on the line for the public and he thanked them for their service in keeping the community and its citizens safe. Meininger related how he had been willing, and wanted, to trade places with his son, Kaden, who had battled cancer during the last year. As he prepared for Tuesday’s ceremonies, he said he thought “How selfish. God healed my son, I didn’t have to trade places with him. ... As you think about your wife, your children, your relatives, it is pretty easy to make the statement, ‘I’d give my life for them.’ Yet, as you look around in the crowd, and you look at those who service every day in our law enforcement, our 911 center, and our public safety and you think about what the do, day to day, and they are putting their lives on the line, in front of you, in front of me, and they do not even know some of you, they don’t know me. They have taken that oath to stand in front of me, and beside me.”

During the ceremonies, Scottsbluff Police Capt. Brian Wasson and Gering Police Chief George Holthus read names of two officers who have died in the line of duty with those two agencies: Albert Peterson, who was shot and killed April 25, 1923, by a bootlegger, and James Ray, who died Aug. 7, 1959, in an automobile crash. Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Mark Overman read the name of Amanda Baker, a corrections officer killed in February 2014. Nebraska State Patrol Lt. Art Frerichs read a list of state troopers who have died in the line of duty, including that of Trooper Loyal Zink, who died June 23,1945, in an automobile accident. A complete list of Nebraska State Patrol officers killed in the line of duty is listed on the Nebraska State Patrol website, statepatrol.nebraska.gov.

Spencer said he hopes to have the ceremonies annually at the Scottsbluff Police Department.

For photos from National Peace Officers Memorial ceremony Tuesday, visit starherald.com/photos.