Officers who have died in the line of duty remembered during Elgin police memorial for fallen officers

Officers who have died in the line of duty remembered during Elgin police memorial for fallen officers

Deb Wiseman is part of a “club” no one wants to belong to, the one made up of family members of police officers killed in the line of duty.

Wiseman’s brother, Iowa State Trooper Mark Toney, died Sept. 20, 2011. He was killed in a crash while involved in a high-speed chase, she told those gathered Wednesday for Elgin’s National Peace Officer Memorial Day ceremony.

Wiseman, a senior legal secretary for the 18th District Judicial Court, had spoken to Mark that morning while was on his way to work. He told her he’d call her later.

“It was the last time I talked to my brother,” said Wiseman, who has become a member of the Illinois Concerns of Police Survivors, a nonprofit that helps surviving families of fallen officers.

When Toney died, her family was inundated with support from his “blue family.” They were touched by the police officers who came to pay their respects, she said.

“Please don’t ever underestimate the power of just being there for survivors,” Wiseman said.

Elgin police detective Craig Tucker gave a riveting rendition of the national anthem on an electric guitar during the Elgin Police Memorial Day ceremony held Wednesday in Civic Plaza. (Gloria Casas/The Courier-News)

Through her work with the police survivors group, Wiseman is often one of the first points of contact for the families when a police officer dies while on duty. The organization provides resources to help them begin to pick up the pieces of their lives, she said.

It’s been 13 years since her brother died. Time has made the pain less intense, but it doesn’t go away, Wiseman said. For that reason, survivors appreciate the memorial ceremonies that are held every year, she said.

“We have already suffered our worst nightmare, losing our officers,” Wiseman said. “Our second concern is that they are not forgotten. Days like this remind us that the sacrifices of our officers were not in vain and allow us to say thank you to you all for your support.”

Survivors also know how hard it is to be an officer in these times, she said. Officers are often vilified and disrespected, but “we see you and we appreciate you,” she said.

She recalled a story she recently heard about an officer who was retiring. His fellow officers told him he was leaving at the right time because right now was the worst time to be an officer, she said.

The retiring officer responded, “It’s not the worst time to be a police officer. It’s the most important time to be a police officer,” Wiseman said.

National Peace Officer Memorial Day falls during National Police Week, which this year is May 12-18. President John F. Kennedy designated the day as a remembrance for fallen police officers in 1962.

Last year, 132 officers were killed in the line of duty in the United States, Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley told those gathered at the outdoor ceremony. This year the total is 57 so far, she said.

“Today is a day for us to reflect and always remember our fellow officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Lalley said.

Each member of the police department has their own reason for joining the force, she said. As the years pass, they experience professional highs and lows, she said.

Elgin Police Chief Ana Lalley speaks during the annual ceremony to honor police officers who died in the line of duty. Last year, 132 officers were killed nationally. (Gloria Casas/The Courier-News)

“Officers live with the constant reminder of the uncertainty of each day. Officers can never be certain that they will return home safely,” Lalley said. “As law enforcement officers, we have chosen to live with this uncertainty for the greater good of the community and the citizens we have chosen to serve.”

For those who serve, it’s their responsibility to keep alive the memory of those who have died and to always support the fallen officer’s loved ones, Lalley said.

“When an officer loses his life, it reminds us not only about the impermanence of life but also about the fleeting nature of time and the importance of always cherishing the people we love, taking time for the little things, and being grateful for the love and support of the people there for us,” she said.

Mayor Dave Kaptain read a proclamation marking May 15 as Police Memorial Day in Elgin and ordered flags to be flown at half-staff for the day.

Gloria Casas is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.

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