Burying Our Brethren

Sergeant Christopher Kelley with the Hutto Police Department in Texas stopped a vehicle for a minor traffic violation. The driver had a warrant for his arrest. When Sergeant Kelley attempted to arrest the individual, the suspect fought with him and broke free.

 

The suspect then got into Sergeant Kelley’s patrol vehicle and struck him as he fled the scene. Kelley was drug down the road by the vehicle for some distance. He passed away at a nearby medical center.

 

By coincidence, fate, or divine appointment, you decide, I had a contractor visit my home this morning. I knew he attended a funeral the week prior, so I asked about the relative who passed away. It was Sergeant Kelley, his cousin.

 

I heard the firsthand story from the loved one whose family sustained this incredible loss. But sadly, I also heard how the overwhelming show of solidarity by the law enforcement community caused angst and troubling inconvenience for elderly family members in attendance. Patrol cars and uniforms filled the best parking spots and seats. It broke his heart to see several physically challenged relatives limping, and pushing wheel chairs, several hundred yards because they could get no closer.

 

My pro-law enforcement contractor shared a family perspective that we all need to keep in mind when planning these events. “It was more about the profession than Chris.” The impersonal service honored the vocation more than the individual who lost his life. He wasn’t critical, just matter of fact. There was more respect paid for the badge than the individual wearing it.

 

Sadly, I have seen this happen on occasion. I write to exhort those who plan these events. Yes, the deceased is a member of a brotherhood/sisterhood community intertwined with loyal bonds. But he or she was a member of a biological family first, and we need to be sensitive to their needs and desires when paying tribute. The wishes and needs of the family should be thoughtfully considered while burying one of our brethren.

 

-Jim

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