State leaders joined hundreds of law enforcement officers at the state capital Monday in honoring officers who died last year in the line of duty, reports Margie Menzel of the News Service of Florida.
Florida led the nation in the number deaths of officers in 2011.
“When we serve honorably, there is nothing purer than the quality of our service in this world,” said James Loftus, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department. “That thin blue line…separates and insulates good from evil.”
After a procession down Monroe Street, the families and comrades of the fallen gathered in the Capitol Courtyard to hear from Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Mayor Bill Foster of St. Petersburg, where three police officers were killed last year alone.
“Last week, we learned Florida’s crime rate is at a 41-year low,” said Scott. “That milestone reminds us that public safety stems from the commitment of selfless public servants. We’re also mindful that it sometimes comes at a ridiculously high cost.”
The event was sponsored by the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police.
“This morning is not a funeral. We were exhausted by funerals last year,” said James Preston, president of the FOP in Florida. :Rather, this morning is a celebration of the men and women who were and are our heroes.”
Preston said Florida has the unfortunate distinction of leading the nation in line-of-duty deaths both last year and, so far, this year.
“Already in 2012, we find ourselves mourning the loss of three more,” he said.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, in 2011 eight officers were killed via criminal acts, two in accidents and one of complications from an infection he’d caught from a baby he tried to save. According to the Fraternal Order of Police, the death tally was 12 – less the officer who caught the infection, whom the national organization is still considering, but counting two who died of natural causes on the job.
Preston said 60,000 U.S. law enforcement officers are assaulted each year, 16,000 are injured and 6,000 are injured so badly they must retire.
On a positive note, he said, in 31,000 cases, officers’ lives were saved by bullet-proof vests.
“Wear it for your family,” he told the crowd.