AUGUSTA — Representatives from law enforcement agencies across Maine, state officials and family members of those who died in the line of duty honored them at an annual ceremony Thursday.
Gov. Paul LePage, the keynote speaker at the ceremony in front of the Maine Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, thanked the officers and their families and said people sometimes take law enforcement for granted.
“We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to each and every one of you here in uniform and your colleagues who are doing their jobs in the streets of Maine,” LePage said. “We are a better place and a better society because of you, because of those behind us on the wall.”
A Maine Law Enforcement Officer hasn’t died in the line of duty since Daryl Gordon, a Maine Warden Service pilot, was killed in a plane crash in 2011.
The ceremony was part of National Police Week. At the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C., the names of 286 law enforcement were added this year.
Maine Chief of Police Association President Phillip Crowell Jr. said similar ceremonies were being held across the country, but Maine’s was unique because of the 83 names on the monument.
“When we remember their sacrifice, we must also remember their lives. We need to remember those that were left in the wake of their individual tragedies, families forever changed,” said Crowell, who is also the police chief of Auburn.
LePage said he’s pleased there wasn’t another name added to the monument in Augusta this year, but he wishes it was possible it pass a law preventing future deaths. He also thanked officers for choosing such a courageous lifestyle.
“They get up every morning and do their very best to come home at night. And today we stand here honoring those who attempted to do the same thing, but they’re on the wall behind me,” LePage said, pointing with his left thumb at the memorial behind him.
“You are all superheroes because you protect our lives every day,” he said. “And not only do we honor those that have fallen, but we honor you for having the courage to step up and protect the rest of us.”
In introductory remarks, Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Morris called LePage “a true and loyal friend of law enforcement” for his focus on domestic violence and reducing welfare fraud and abuse, for recognizing how drugs have affected the crime rate in Maine, and for his attempt to add more drug enforcement agents, judges and prosecutors.
LePage’s drug enforcement bill passed with broad bipartisan support this spring, but the Legislature’s budget committee didn’t fund it.
A legislative committee killed LePage’s emergency proposal to fund the bill with projected surplus in the state’s unclaimed-property fund after he said he’d veto the bill if it was amended.