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Hartselle Enquirer

Memorial ceremony honors fallen county officers

By Emily Griffith

For the Enquirer

The annual Morgan County Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony honors the 10 local officers who have died while performing their duties in the county, the most recent in 1985, and also pays tribute to those now in law enforcement who face potential danger daily. This year’s event was held Friday.

“It reminds the community that law enforcement sacrifices more than just time and effort; they sacrifice their lives,” said Morgan County Sheriff Ron Puckett.

There were 362 recorded officer deaths in the line of duty nationally this past year, and there have been 125 so far this year.

Four law enforcement deaths took place May 9-15 – National Police Week – in Texas and California, all by gunfire, and those recent deaths featured heavily in Friday’s memorial.

California Officer Jimmy Inn was shot as soon as he arrived on the scene in response to a domestic disturbance. Texas deputies Stephen Jones and Samuel Leonard were shot to death while trying to capture dogs that had bitten someone.

“There is a battle, there is a war, against law enforcement in this nation,” Puckett said.

Officers from every department in Morgan County attended the ceremony in dress uniform. Their brotherhood was tangible in the broad smiles and hugs with which they greeted one another.

Hartselle Police Chief Justin Barley said ceremonies like these “are good to remind loved ones that were left behind that they still have support and people that care about them.”

As the ceremony began, the crowd fell silent during the posting of the colors. The officers stood at attention and crisply saluted the flag.

Morgan County Circuit Judge Jennifer Howell served as the keynote speaker at the ceremony. Howell remarked on her experiences as a young girl with a state parole officer, Murray Millwee, for a father.

“I think it wasn’t so much that my daddy knew everybody, so much as he recognized the deeper relationship between those of you who wear a badge and carry a gun,” Howell said.

Her voice shook with emotion as she shared her story and spoke about how the community can honor its fallen officers.

“It makes me proud to be a part, in some way, of y’all’s brotherhood,” Howell said.

Officers placed roses in a vase for each of the 10 fallen officers in Morgan County, followed by a salute.

Deputy Charles William “Bill” Biles of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office was the most recent officer killed in action in the county, in 1985. His son placed the final rose for his father and reached out to touch the memorial with tears in his eyes.

Puckett said law enforcement is still respected and honored locally. He said people frequently pay for officers’ meals while they are on a shift.

Barley said, “Our community is special in the way that our citizens work to solve problems, and it speaks volumes to how special the county we live in is.”

The responsibility of law enforcement to protect and serve was a theme for many of the speakers.

“We’re not out here to hurt people; we’re here to save lives, and I think our citizens recognize that,” Puckett said.

The ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute, followed by the playing of taps in honor of the fallen officers.

Thirty-six years have passed without an officer death in Morgan County. Barley said local law enforcement has been fortunate, but he credited training, safety equipment and the community for the lack of violence against police.

“I hope to see that, nationwide, support for law enforcement continues or will rebound, and those relationships will be healthy,” Barley said.


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