Fallen officers honored at memorial ceremony

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by Megan Trent

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 9, 2014)  - Law enforcement officers from across Indiana gathered in Indianapolis Tuesday evening to honor five officers killed in the line of duty within the last year.

The memorial service was held at the Indiana Law Enforcement and Fire Fighters Memorial next to the Statehouse downtown. Hundreds of members of law enforcement were in attendance as well as public officials, community members and the families of fallen officers. Governor Mike Pence was the keynote speaker and the ceremony was led by Indiana Fraternal Order of Police President Tim Downs.

"It has been a year of heartbreak and loss across the state of Indiana in our law enforcement community," Gov. Pence told the crowd.

Molly Winters, Chairman of the Indiana Law Enforcement Memorial and wife of a fallen officer, recognized five members of law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty between 1909 and 1945, but never before publically honored: Samuel Irish, Jesse Nelson, Frank Ury, Fred Certain and William Drury.

The five officers killed within the last year were also honored, and their families were presented with crystal statues. Rod Bradway and Perry Renn with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department were honored, along with Jacob D. Calvin of the Tipton County Sheriff's Department and Jeffrey Westerfield of the Gary Police Department. Nick Schultz, an officer with the Merriville police department who was fatally shot Friday was also recognized.

William Owensby, President of FOP Lodge 86, says the loss of five officers in one year, two from IMPD, is sobering.

"It is an extraordinary number that we're not used to dealing with. Attacks on our officers are increasing."

He says manpower is at a critical low. The mayor's crime plan includes a proposal to hire 280 new officers by 2018. City council has already approved a public safety tax increase that will fund the hiring of 150 of those new officers. If the homestead tax credit is eliminated, which is expected to be reintroduced to city council next week, additional funding would go to IMPD.

"It is a step in the right direction," says Owensby. "At some point I don't think it will start to make a difference until the hiring outpaces the attrition, and we're not there yet."

Owensby says, on average, 42 to 52 officers leave the department each year through attrition. He says a high percentage of officers are currently eligible for retirement, and its very possible fewer than 30 new, additional officers would be able to be hired under the plan.

With a protection area of 372 miles, Owensby says there aren't near enough officers, fewer than 1,500.

"When you really take that into account and start crunching the numbers, it's amazing that we're doing the job that we're doing in law enforcement."

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