The numbers were surprising.
During the Fallen Officers’ Memorial, held Thursday on a blustery first day of May, speaker Bill Erfurth shared the number of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan from Sept. 11, 2001 to Jan. 1, 2011 were 1,444. In that same time period the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty was 1,673.
Erfurth learned that statistic as the Miami-Dade retired police lieutenant produced two documentaries on the subject of fallen police officers: “Heroes Behind the Badge,” and “Heroes Behind the Badge: Sacrifice & Survival.”
Among those fallen officers recognized during the 27th annual memorial at OPOTA in London was Jonathan “Russ” Long of the Akron Police Department. Long passed away on Aug. 15, 2013 as a complications of injuries he received while on patrol in 1991. While in pursuit of another vehicle Long crashed into a utility pole and suffered extensive injuries.
Despite those injuries, which left him paralyzed and unable to speak, the well-liked, athletic Long continued to serve on the Akron Police Department instructing other officers and serving until his health no longer permitted it. In 2009 Long received the attorney general’s Ohio Distinguished Law Enforcement Special Award “for continuing to encourage and inspire others.”
Fellow officers came in his honor. Akron Assistant Police Chief Charles Brown located the panel on which Long’s name was inscribed. He and Long had started on the APD together in the 1980s.
“He was a great guy, would give you the shirt off his back,” Brown said.
He was a pall bearer at Long’s funeral less than a year ago.
Erfurth quoted Long saying, “If my accident can save an officer’s life, it won’t be for nothing.”
Traffic accidents are the second leading cause of death to law enforcement officers.
Interestingly, Erfurth pointed out through some research that officers don’t wear seat belts. He encouraged them to wear them and their protective vests.
“It saved my life,” Erfurth said of the latter.
Erfurth referenced another fallen officer in his presentation. Sandusky Police Officer Andrew Dunn was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2011. He had followed his father’s footsteps into law enforcement. Erfurth acknowledged Matt Dunn, who retired from the Sandusky Police Department following his son’s death. He watched and shot pictures of grandson Connor as he coursed among the flags erected for his late father and all other officers who died in the line of duty.
In his remarks, Attorney General Mike DeWine said law enforcement officers “shield us through the risks they take every day.”
He also spoke of Long, whose mother dedicated her life to her son’s care following his emergence from a coma.
“We remember the families behind the name, our men and women who lost loved ones,” he said. “We pray for each one of them that they will find peace and comfort in this ceremony.
“Officers face great risks. They take risks willingly and know what they are,” DeWine said.
Jennifer Mallory wrapped her daughter, Rachel, in a blanket and hugged her against the springtime chill. She brought her daughter to the Fallen Officers’ Memorial for a day of education. Her husband, Detective Keith Mallory, is a 20-year veteran of the Madison Township Police Department in the Groveport area.
“It’s a good thing for children to respect police officers,” Mallory said. “Her father has a difficult job.”
Dean Shipley can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 17 or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.