Fallen officers remembered

Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The Columbia Police Department Color Guard folds an American flag that was received by Lt. Rebekah Mitchell on behalf of the Lewisburg Police Department.

While the number of police officer deaths in the line of duty dropped 16 percent during 2009, the Lewisburg Police ceremony on Police Memorial Day in Rock Creek Park remained a solemn event on Thursday.

Lewisburg Police Officer Billy Blackwell and police Detective Gene Leverette were remembered for their service and untimely deaths. Police Chief Chuck Forbis reported cold facts for the men and women who protect and serve.

Total officer deaths declined from 138 in 2008 to 116 in 2009, Forbis said with statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. It was the fewest line-of-duty deaths since 1959 when there were 109. Patrolling the streets includes dramatic and routine events that can take a life. In fact, the 2009 reduction in officer deaths was a result of a steep drop in traffic-related fatalities.

"The encouraging news on traffic fatalities is offset by a disturbing rise in the number of officers shot and killed in 2009," the Officers Memorial Fund reports at its website LawMemorial.org. "Firearms-related fatalities increased 22 percent, to 49 in 2009, from 40 in 2008."

State Rep. Eddie Bass (D-Prospect) was the guest speaker and the former Giles County sheriff reminded the audience that "It's not an ordinary job" serving as a law enforcement officer.

"I understand this way of life," Bass said. "I've lived it... Your life is on the line... Often it is those you leave behind each day who carry the largest burden..."

Relatives of Blackwell and Leverette attended and participated by presenting a memorial wreath for he ceremony. It is on display in the police department lobby, as is a flag presented to the department by the Columbia Police Honor Guard during the memorial service. Plaques honoring Blackwell and Leverette have been on display in the police lobby since February 2009.

The Marshall County High School Chorus performed during the ceremony that included messages of respect and support from Mayors Barbara Woods and Joe Boyd Liggett, the Revs. Tom Dumser, Steve Thomas and Shaun Grant. Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Will Spivy read the Roll Call of Heroes.