Fallen officers honored

Published 10:10 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fallen officers in Suffolk and across the country were remembered at Suffolk’s annual law enforcement memorial ceremony in City Council chambers on Tuesday.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation that designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. Tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world converge on Washington, D.C., annually to participate in a number of planned events that honor those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“Without a doubt, law enforcement is one of the toughest jobs in our country,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said at the event. “We are painfully aware that it is one of the few professions where an ordinary day can turn into anything but ordinary. Today, we honor the lives we have lost, and we honor all in the public safety arena.”

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The guest speaker was Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney, who focused on the special role school resource officers play in the schools.

“They assist our school administrators in maintaining a safe and secure environment,” he said.

School resource officers serve as law-related educators and counselors, as well as a law enforcement presence in the school, Whitney said.

“These three roles have helped Suffolk Public Schools better prepare our students for their adult lives,” he said. Officers also assist with truancy, advise administrators about what’s going on in the neighborhoods where the students are growing up, encourage students to wear their seat belts and drive sober, and even are available to answer questions about traffic violations, Whitney said.

“They’re able to show by example what a professional police officer does.”

He also compared police officers and teachers for the thankless nature of their jobs.

“You know as a police officer, you’re not going to be famous, as teachers know,” Whitney said. “You know you won’t be liked by everyone.”

Law enforcement officials placed four roses in a flower arrangement to honor the four line-of-duty deaths in Suffolk’s history.

Policeman George T. Smith died July 4, 1908, after being shot by a man he had arrested earlier in the day for being drunk in public. He was survived by his wife and children.

Police Chief William E. Brinkley died Dec. 2, 1918, after attempting to apprehend a man wanted in another state. He had received a telegram notifying him the escaped convict would be arriving at the Suffolk train station with illegal liquor. The suspect opened fire immediately upon seeing Brinkley and another officer. Brinkley had been with the agency for 18 years.

Patrolman Joseph Pratt died after being shot twice in the abdomen on Oct. 19, 1935. He had been trying to serve a warrant on the shooter for failing to pay child support. Pratt, who was the other officer with Chief Brinkley in the train station incident 17 years earlier, had been with the agency for 27 years. He was survived by his wife and five children.

Officer William Andrew “Drew” Henley suffered a fatal heart attack during a foot pursuit of a suspect on March 19, 2005. He and his partner were on patrol in the Webb Street area, when they observed several suspicious men. One of them fled when the officers approached, and Henley gave chase. He collapsed immediately after taking the suspect into custody and died shortly after midnight on March 20. The man he had arrested was wanted in New Jersey on assault and battery charges.

Henley had been with the Suffolk Police Department for three years. He is survived by his wife and four children, and the street on which the police department headquarters now sits was renamed after him.