Q: Can you give an update on this year’s activities for National Police Week, observed May 11 – 17?
A: This has been a big week and my wife and I just returned from Washington, DC, where we joined others to memorialize our warriors across the nation who died in the line of duty. The highlight event is the engraving of the names of those officers we have lost this year on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on the National Mall.
This year, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which sponsors the events, identified COVID deaths as in the line of duty deaths, since we police officers continued to protect and serve throughout the pandemic.
Q: Were there any local law enforcement officers who had their name added to the wall this year?
A: Yes, this year we lost Deputy Jody Hull, Jr., who was a Youth Resource Deputy at St. Augustine High School, to COVID and his name was added to the wall in Washington DC. This was my first in the line of duty death as sheriff or as police chief and it was very humbling. Many families have been affected, including not only the Hull family, but also the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office family and the St. Augustine High School family as well as the community at large. The outpouring of love and support from the community upon his death was overwhelming.
Since it was founded in 1821, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office has had 10 in the line of duty deputy deaths and one canine.
Q: How many names were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial this year?
A: This year, 619 names were added, of which 472 died in 2021 and 319 of those were COVID-related. (Remainder were deaths added prior to this year.) Typically, the average of names added annually is between 100 and 150.
Q: What type of support is available to families left behind by these law enforcement officers?
A: One non-profit called C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors) really steps up and helps families when they lose a loved one in the line of duty. C.O.P.S. programs for survivors include the National Police Survivors’ Conference held each May during National Police Week, scholarships, peer-support at the national, state, and local levels, the “C.O.P.S. Kids” Summer Camp, special retreats for spouses, parents, siblings, adult children, extended family, and co-workers, trial and parole support, and other assistance programs.
Q: What is done locally to recognize officers who die in the line of duty?
A: Every year, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office holds our own memorial service to recognize any officer, regardless of agency, killed in the line of duty within St. Johns County. We have a memorial wall outside our office on Lewis Speedway.
Additionally, I am establishing a “Gold Star Family” status, borrowing from the military’s idea. We will include even families of deputies who died from health issues or by suicide and don’t qualify at the national level in addition to those who died in the line of duty. I think it’s important to maintain community with all these families and they will be honorary lifetime members of the SJSO family and invited to attend all of our events, like swearing-ins or picnics.
Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you with any questions or suggestions about this article?
A: They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (904) 824-8304. Also, our website, www.sjso.org has a wealth of resources, from alarm registration to Crime Stoppers to our Neighbors app.