Beltrami County honors lives of fallen officers amidst National Police Week
In honor of law enforcement who died in the line of duty within the past year, community members gathered at the Beltrami County Courthouse Pavilion on Thursday for a Peace Officers Memorial Service.
BEMIDJI — In honor of the Minnesota officers who died in the line of duty within the past year, members of law enforcement and the community gathered under cloudy skies at the Beltrami County Courthouse Pavilion on Thursday for a Peace Officers Memorial Service.
The service is an annual occurrence in Bemidji and around the country as law enforcement agencies hold services to honor fallen officers during Police Week. Just over 60 years ago, a day memorializing those lives lost was signed into law.
On Oct. 1, 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy signed Public Law 87-726, designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day in honor of peace officers who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty. Each year, the week in which May 15 falls is known as Police Week.
“From the beginning of this nation, law enforcement officers have played an important role in safeguarding the rights and freedoms which are guaranteed by the Constitution and in protecting the lives and property of our citizens,” the proclamation read. “It is fitting and proper that we express our gratitude for the dedicated service and courageous deeds of law enforcement officers and for the contributions they have made to the security and well-being of all our people.”
In a proclamation made on Monday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz ordered all U.S. and state flags to fly at half-staff in honor of Peace Officers Memorial Day.
And at Thursday’s service, Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince upheld a proclamation designating that National Police Week would be observed in the city of Bemidji.
“(Today is) a day of honoring those who not only serve us today, but have fallen in the line of duty, and their families as well,” Prince said, “because we know that the cost of service is high and it’s never just to the individual, it’s to their family and friends and to the entire community ... This is a profession that has great risk, it’s a profession that’s hard to do, and it’s a profession that deserves our respect and honor.”
During his speech, Beltrami County Sheriff Jason Riggs described the importance of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, located in Washington D.C., which consists of two 304-foot-long walls that have been carved with the names of the 22,000-plus officers who have died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history.
“The wall in Washington has the names of countless officers throughout the country who have given their lives and the sacrifice for their community. ... I think as a country we need to recognize and remember those sacrifices,” Riggs said. “We’ve had plenty of them locally and in the state. That’s why we’re here today — to honor those people who have given that ultimate sacrifice.”
Chaplain Paul Rose stood before the crowd and expressed his gratitude to the members of law enforcement present at the event.
“I thank all the officers in attendance and the departments you so greatly represent — thank you for your loyalty and your service to us," he said. "Even in the most routine moments on watch or patrol, I know you protect us. Even on the quietest day, the next call may send you into the extremes of danger. I want you to know that we are grateful.”
Rose described to attendees that two words came to him when he was asked to speak at the event — hope and honor.
“Hope is a powerful thing, it motivates and encourages us… But hope can be hard to find in the line of duty, for you are tasked with finding the best in the midst of the worst,” he said to the officers. “We are here to encourage you, hold on to hope. I believe that hope still abounds and you are the proof of it.”
For his second word, honor, Rose drew attention to the two Minnesota officers who died in the line of duty in the past year.
Deputy Sheriff Dallas Ryan Edeburn of the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 30 on Aug. 1, 2022, after participating in physical fitness training at a K9 facility.
Deputy Sheriff Josh Owen of the Pope County Sheriff's Office was shot and killed on his 44th birthday on April 15, 2023, while he and another deputy were attempting to arrest a man for domestic violence.
“These two individuals that you see in the program, they have gone even to the extent of giving their lives for those they don’t know, but yet valiantly serve,” Rose said. “They each gave, as President Lincoln said, ‘the last full measure of devotion' to our country that we love so dearly. Their sacrifices and full service will never be forgotten. We will continue to honor their memory.”
Chaplain Derek Claypool then read the Minnesota Memorial Roll Call, a list naming the officers who have died in the line of duty within the past year, to give attendees a moment to honor the lives and service of Edeburn and Owen.
Silence fell upon the crowd as Ken Roff played “Taps” on the trumpet and John Egelhof played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Chaplain Kath Molitor then closed out the service with a prayer.
“Father in heaven, I ask that your hand and your arms go around the shoulders of each and every one of our law enforcement officers, our emergency workers, our dispatchers,” she said. "And Lord, stay with the families of the people we have lost. … They are grieving for that one that said goodbye in the morning and didn’t come home at night.”