The lives of nine fallen officers and those who still risk it all each day were honored during the Law Enforcement Memorial Thursday.
Outside of the Manatee County Judicial Center under a warm May sun, hundreds of civilians joined members of local police departments, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Highway Patrol and local and state officials to remember the sacrifices made in this profession.
Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan gave the keynote speech, noting the state of law enforcement in the United States.
Though crime rates have dropped 50 percent in the past two decades, Bevan said many Americans believe crime is on the rise, and some don’t call 911 because they believe police would not or could not do anything to help them.
“That troubles me. Troubles me a lot,” she said. “Because I know we can help, and I know we do help.”
Even with the daily risks and the wavering public support they sometimes feel, they still put on the uniform and head to work each day.
“Those of us who wear these badges proudly know that our most effective weapon in our job is our compassion,” Bevan said.
One by one, law enforcement officers, some arm-in-arm with the fallen officers’ family members, placed red roses on nine memorial plaques. A resounding 21-gun salute echoed from the Manatee County honor guard.
Penny Johnston, who was in attendance and is the wife of a retired police officer, believes that it takes a “special breed” to be a police officer and says they “need to be honored at every turn.”
“They strap on a bullet-proof vest when they go to work. Very few professions require that,” Johnston said.
The Coxes and the Bennetts were among the family members in attendance. They were honored in an intimate, informal ceremony at the Bradenton Police Department after the memorial.
Glenn Bridges was one of those family members. He placed a red rose on the plaque of Carl Cox, who was his uncle. He says that he was “Uncle Carl” to a lot of people in Bradenton. Cox was an avid fisherman and loved his job, according to Bridges.
Recently the department found out that one of their own fallen officers, Steve Bennett, was not on the National Police Memorial in Washington, D.C. The department is making strides to change that.
Bennett’s great-niece, Wylene Graham, said she appreciated the efforts being made.
“It’s nice to honor the ones that are gone, but (police officers) are protecting us and I respect each one of them,” she said.
Fallen officers honored at Law Enforcement Memorial
- Marshal Joe Terry, city of Palmetto, Sept. 21, 1987
- Deputy Sheriff Edward Matthews, Manatee County, March 6, 1910
- Constable Barnie A. Cumbia, Manatee County, Feb. 25, 1934
- Officer Steve Bennett, Bradenton Police Department, Feb. 5, 1934
- Constable Shirley Dewey Smith, Manatee County, June 4, 1950
- Officer Carl W. Cox, Bradenton Police Department, Aug. 8, 1970
- Sgt. John C. Baxter, Florida Highway Patrol, Oct. 5, 1985
- Detective Herbert W. Grimes, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Nov. 24, 1986
- Trooper Jeffrey Young, Aug. 18, 1987