Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
ELGIN — In a solemn reminder of police officers’ ultimate “devotion to helping others,” a crowd of more than 100 people gathered outside the Elgin Police Department on Wednesday afternoon to honor officers killed in the line of duty in Illinois and across the nation.
“Each death leaves a gaping hole in the department and in the community where the officers served,” Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said. “Maybe one day we can celebrate when every single officer across America comes home safe after their shift is over.”
“This year marks the 14th year of this memorial,” Swoboda said. “The memorial service is part of the Elgin Police Department’s celebration of National Police Week, which was started by President John F. Kennedy.”
Since the first recorded police officer’s death in the line of duty in 1791, Swoboda said, 19,000 officers have lost their lives. In 2010, 152 officers died across the nation.
In 2010 in Illinois, nine officers died in the line of duty. They were Senior Patrol Agent Ellane Aimiuwu, Illinois Department of Corrections; Chief William Bauer, Wyoming Police Department; Correctional Officer Tracy Cooper, Illinois Department of Corrections; Officer Jeremy Hubbard, Cowden Police Department; and from the Chicago Police Department, Officer Michael Bailey Sr., Officer Michael Flisk, Sgt. Alan Haymaker, Officer Thor Soderberg and Officer Thomas Wortham IV.
“This day is a reminder of the police department’s devotion to helping others,” Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said. “We must be aware that our officers are the most visible representatives of our communities.”
After Swoboda and Deputy Chief Bob Beeter placed a wreath at the foot of the flagpoles, three shots were fired and taps was played. Flags were lowered to half staff by Officer Mike Gough, Detective Tom Wolek and Detective Leon Filas.
Elgin Officer Jim Lalley played bagpipes during presentation of the colors and when the colors were retired.
The national anthem was sung by Meredith Andrews, recipient of the 2011 Dove Awards’ Praise & Worship Album of the Year. The invocation was given by Chaplain James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Church. The benediction was delivered by Chaplain Willie Tate of Progressive Baptist Church.
Elgin Deputy Chief Cecil Smith offered a history on the laying of the wreath, the playing of taps, and the firing detail.
“The firing detail dates back to the 1700s,” Smith said. “When two warring parties ceased hostilities, three shots were fired to show that the honored dead had been collected.”
Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy attended the memorial.
“This was a fantastic effort put together by Chief Swoboda and his team,” Fahy said.
The memorial was also attended by members of police departments in South Elgin, Carpentersville, Streamwood and Sleepy Hollow.
“I feel strongly about this memorial,” Sleepy Hollow Chief James Montalbano said. “This draws us all together. I feel for any officer who has been wounded or killed.”
Following the memorial, the public was invited into the police department lobby for refreshments and a chance to view a new display. Above the glass cases that hold memorabilia and photographs of the Elgin Police Department, the Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association has added photographs of Elgin police officers dating from 1836 to the present.