WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) – In 2018, the nation lost 144 officers. Every 54 hours, a law enforcement officer dies on the job. Wednesday at the Winona County Law Enforcement Center, they were remembered.
“It’s really important to honor these officers. and honor their memories, especially for their families, so they know we haven’t forgotten that they gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Ben Klinger, emergency management director at the Winona County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s also important for serving officers to know people still remember and appreciate what they are doing.”
In total, 251 Minnesota officers have lost their lives in the line duty, including three from Winona.
“It’s really hard. It brings home the reality of the job and the risk.” Klinger said.
One retired deputy remembers the fateful day Minnesota lost Ted Foss back in 2000.
“He was a dear friend and had a great sense of humor and was a joy to work with,” said Steve Baumgart, a retired Winona County deputy. “He would back us up all the time and was just a good man.”
Last year there was an increase in officer fatalities, but so far this year, that’s not the case. The rate has gone down by 32 percent.
While the risk is always in the back of officer’s minds, they insist that you cannot be paralyzed by the fear of the unknown.
“You just never knew when it’s your time. You cannot go to work thinking ‘This is going to be the day’,” said Baumgart, who also worked for the Chicago Fire Department. “You always just pray to God that you’re safe and at the end of the day, it’s important to come home.”
New technology helps the safety of officers, but keeping an open eye for danger is also important, both for the police department and the public’s safety.
“The biggest thing is to look out for each other,” said Klinger. “We watch each other’s backs all the time. We appreciate the community that looks out for us too.”
Winona has been holding the law enforcement memorial for over 20 years, and Baumgart hopes the public remembers all officers that pass away, even the ones who are retired.
“This is very near and dear to me, this memorial, and I just feel in my heart to keep it going.” said Baumgart.
Rochester police officer John Compton gave a short speech on losing colleagues, discussing his first-hand experience while serving in Seattle.
The day closed with “Taps” and “Amazing Grace” as the community remembered their fallen heroes and continued to support current officers.