Published 9:02 pm Thursday, May 19, 2016
It has been 11 years since Suffolk had its last line-of-duty death of a law enforcement officer. It had been 70 years before that since its previous one. Well over a century has passed since its first one.
The details of the town’s second line-of-duty death illustrate just how long it has been — the police chief had received a telegram notifying him an escaped convict would be arriving at the Suffolk train station with illegal liquor. The convict fired at the police chief and another officer when he spied them, killing the chief.
A telegram. The Suffolk train station. Illegal liquor. And the police chief himself going to make an arrest. Indeed, it has been a while since that happened in 1918.
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But the passage of time, whether it be 11 years or 108 years, makes no difference. It is right and proper that Suffolk takes time each and every year to memorialize the contributions of its law enforcement officers who sacrificed to make sure Suffolk was and is a safe place to live, work and play.
The ceremony held Tuesday in City Council chambers paid tribute to the four men who have died in their quest to protect Suffolk and also honored other law enforcement officers throughout the country who have made the same sacrifice in defense of their communities.
Many still on the force remember Officer William Andrew “Drew” Henley, who suffered a fatal heart attack on March 19, 2005, during a foot pursuit of a wanted suspect. So beloved was Henley, who had been on the force for three years, that the street on which police headquarters now sits was renamed after him.
Patrolman Joseph Pratt died on Oct. 19, 1935, after being shot by a subject on whom he had been trying to serve a warrant for failing to pay child support.
Chief William E. Brinkley died Dec. 2, 1918, in the aforementioned train station shootout.
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.
Time has not diminished the sacrifice these four men made for Suffolk, nor should it dull the fervor with which our community honors them each year.