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‘A time of reflection for us’ | Washington County News

WASHINGTON COUNTY — In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. This year, that week is May 12-18, and police departments across Washington County stand in solidarity with those who have lost officers in the line of duty and all those who sacrifice to keep their communities safe.

The names of more than 24,000 men and women are engraved at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, and hundreds more are added each year during this week.

Every year, Hartford remembers Marshal Leonard Scherger, who was shot and killed on May 21, 1904. Hartford Police Chief Scott Mac-Farlan said that understanding that police officers are members of the community as much as anyone else, and their work depends largely on their relationship with the rest of the community. If citizens and officers work well together, it will be much easier to keep the community safe.

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“It is often assumed that the responsibility of protecting a community falls squarely on the shoulders of authorities. The Hartford Police Department takes a different approach by recruiting the public through community policing,” MacFarlan said. “Our relationship with the community, developed through partnerships that foster mutual respect, is key to our continued success in providing police services to residents in a fair, conscientious and professional manner. If these partnerships are successful, in the end we will all be safer and enjoy lasting peace and prosperity.”

The Germantown Police Department lost an officer in the line of duty on March 21, 1981, when Officer Robert D. Backes was struck and killed by a vehicle while struggling with a man he was attempting to arrest. According to GPD Police Chief Mike Snow, the loss is felt within the department even today.

“It’s certainly a moment of reflection for us,” Snow said. “It is up to us to make sure we remember him and the sacrifice he made for this community, and make the community aware of what he gave in service to the community.”

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office also lost a deputy in 1998, Deputy John M. Schmitt. Current Sheriff Martin Schulteis knew Schmitt personally and honors his memories and those of many others by recognizing Police Week each year.

“The idea behind Police Week is to give citizens a sense of appreciation for what officers are exposed to every day and the sacrifices they make,” Schulteis said. “No matter where you work in law enforcement, the dangers are real.”

Schulteis said the week also serves to recognize the daily struggles of police officers, as well as the ultimate sacrifices their colleagues have made.

“All working police officers are someone’s husbands, wives, sons and daughters,” Schulteis said. “They are not only risking their lives, but also the sacrifices they make with their families; they miss their children’s birthdays or work on Christmas or Thanksgiving. The sacrifices are much deeper than the possible bodily harm.”

Jackson Police Chief Ryan Vossekuil reminded citizens that the county will honor fallen officers this week.

“During National Police Week we remember law enforcement officers who have given their lives protecting and serving others. In Washington County, we commemorate those we have lost with the Piper Ceremony at midnight in West Bend, and again on Thursday evening at 7 pm at Fair Park in Washington County,” Vossekuil said. “We are very grateful for the support of the Jackson community and encourage everyone interested to attend the memorial service on Thursday evening.”