Memorial service salutes fallen police officers

DOVER — The sobering reality of police work took center stage on Wednesday.

Dozens of uniformed public protectors gathered for the 45th annual Delaware Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

Emotions remained raw from last week’s loss of Delaware State Police trooper Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard, who was shot to death while investigating a suspicious vehicle in a Wawa parking lot in Bear.

Not forgotten either was Delaware Department of Correction officer Lt. Steven R. Floyd Sr., who was killed during an inmate uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna on Feb. 1-2.

Tributes continued to circle back to the two fallen law enforcement officers lost within a three-month span. Their names joined the roll call of deceased officers gone but not forgotten due to the memorial service.

Saundra Floyd, left, the widow of slain correctional officer Steven Floyd uses a tissue to wipe away tears during the 45th Annual Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial Service at Legislative Hall on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

For several years, the annual service hadn’t included the pall of a death of a law enforcement family member. New Castle County Police Lt. Joseph Szczerba was stabbed to death during a call in Wilmington on Sept. 16, 2011.

“Police belong to a very large family of active and retired officers and we don’t forget family,” said former state trooper Pete Schwartzkopf, now speaker of the House in Delaware’s General Assembly.

“We can honor them by keeping them alive in our hearts. … As I grow older I have come to realize that the world is less stable and the job is more dangerous.”

City of Dover police officers salute during the 45th Annual Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial Service at Legislative Hall on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The state representative saluted officer Floyd because “his last act on earth was to warn other people and save their lives,” during the initial stages of the takeover at JTVCC.

Speaking before the assembled audience, Rep. Schwartzkopf retold the story of a retired, disabled veteran whose car stalled on Interstate 95. Cpl. Ballard was the responding officer, and eventually paid a $746 towing fee out of his own wallet for the man who couldn’t afford it.

From left, Gov. John Carney, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall Long, Sen. David McBride and Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf bow their heads during the invocation during the 45th Annual Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial Service at Legislative Hall on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

When the grateful citizen attempted to repay Cpl. Ballard, “he told me to keep it to take your wife and kids out to dinner and do something special for them.”

Having met Cpl. Ballard briefly at a police academy graduation ceremony in 2009, Rep. Schwartzkopf said “he was an impressive young man with a lot to like and I’m sorry I won’t get to know him better.”

Gov. John Carney said about the losses relative to a police officer’s life: “For many of us it’s an abstraction. For you, it’s real, it’s personal, you live it every day. … This year emotions are especially raw.”

Despite the tragedies, Gov. Carney said he’s been inspired on how “the law enforcement, the community,” rallied together “like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

The Delaware State Police stand during the 45th Annual Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial Service at Legislative Hall on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The governor offered a simple “thank you for what you do,” and showed appreciation for “those who serve, those who have served, those who have given their lives protecting all of us.”

While police tragedies have seemingly occurred across the country, Concerns of Police Survivors Delaware Chapter President Eleanor Allione couldn’t quite grasp them in “our little state where everybody knows everyone.”

Ms. Allione conceded, “the world is changing,” but vowed not to forget supporting grieving families.

“Our group of survivors will be with them every step of the way,” she said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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