Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Isaac Whorton joined area officials to help remember fallen law enforcement officers in Tallapoosa County on Thursday in a ceremony in Alexander City.
Whorton said in his role of judge he sees the importance of law enforcement and understands those who serve as officers are following a calling.
“In the judicial branch, we see them almost every day,” Whorton said. “We get to know them and many cases get to know their families. Each one of them has accepted a calling that sets them apart, a calling to serve, a calling to protect, an undeniable devotion to duty and to each other.”
Whorton said those who serve in law enforcement do so despite risks and criticism.
“We demand they make split-second decisions about life and death and we demand they make the right decisions but we often forget they have wives and husbands, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers and sons and daughters,” Whorton said. “They are called to rush toward the danger instead of away with no regard for their own safety.”
Whorton said today’s law enforcement officers face challenges not seen by those who served in the past but do it with the same motivations.
“Those who serve in law enforcement understand each day brings new risks and new dangers,” Whorton said. “They accept those risks knowing today could be their last. They put on their uniforms and leave their loved ones to protect strangers.
“They stand between the gap of anarchy and us. They do this not for money, not for power or recognition. They do it because they are committed to something much larger than themselves because they believe in our justice system.”
Whorton said 163 officers lost their lives in the line of duty in the U.S. in 2018 with an average age of 42 and average of 13 years of service. He said 42 officers have died this year.
Seven officers in Tallapoosa County have been killed on the job, two of which were Alexander City police officers. The last officer killed in the county was in 1992.
The seven are deputy sheriff J. Kyle Young in 1952, Camp Hill police officer Larry Neal Stone in 1968, Camp Hill police officer Roland Hicks Jr. in 1969, Alexander City police officer Clarence Oden Martin in 1976, Alexander City police officer Reuben Milam in 1976, deputy sheriff Leonard W. Brand in 1986 and Tallassee police officer Angeline Scruggs in 1992.
Although the memorial was created to honor Tallapoosa County’s fallen officers, it gives officers a chance to show respect for those who died nationwide as well. The event was held in conjunction with National Police Week, which was created in 1962. Tuesday was National Peace Officers Memorial Day.
Alexander City Mayor Tommy Spraggins said the ceremony is needed to remind everyone of the dangers law enforcement officers face on a daily basis.
“It is an important day that we recognize those who serve in the police departments and sheriff’s department who serve us,” Spraggins said. “Some ultimately give their life for us. We need to remember those.”
Whorton said the day is to remember the fallen and show support to the families left behind.
“Today is the day for us to remember those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in law enforcement for their state and community,” Whorton said. “Today is a solemn day for us to join together as a community to show a clear message of support and respect to the families of the fallen. Today is also to celebrate the lives of those who gave their lives for this country.
“To the family members whose loved one did not return home, we mourn your profound loss. As the flags are lowered to half-mast in memory of those who reached the end of their watch, we are gathered here to reaffirm our commitment to remember. We will never forget.”