Police honored, fallen remembered

Published 10:19 pm Monday, May 15, 2017

Suffolk honored both its fallen heroes and those that continue to serve the community on Monday.

The Suffolk Police Department held its annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service at City Hall on Monday, marking national Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week. Suffolk citizens and members of government joined officers in City Council chambers to honor those who have given their lives in the line of duty.

“It’s to keep remembrance of those officers that made the ultimate sacrifice for the city of Suffolk,” said Capt. John McCarley.

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The Suffolk Police Honor Guard performed the posting of colors, and Dr. David Lotz played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. Mayor Linda T. Johnson spoke about the dangers officers face every day, both in Suffolk and across the country.

“We will never forget what we owe you,” Johnson said.

The ceremony honored the four Suffolk police officers that have died in their service to the community since 1908: Officer George T. Smith, Chief William E. Brinkley, Officer Joseph Pratt, and Officer William Andrew “Drew” Henley.

On March 19, 2005, Henley suffered a fatal heart attack during a foot pursuit of a suspect. He and his partner were patrolling 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.

McCarley attended Chesapeake Public Safety Academy in 2003 with Henley, whom he described as a “consummate officer.”

“He embodied the true professionalism of a police officer,” he said. “He cared for his community as well as his fellow officers,” McCarley said.

According to the online Officer Down Memorial Page, 48 officers in the United States have died in the line of duty this year as of Monday. In 2016, there were 145 law enforcement deaths.

“Good people doing good things can end in tragedy,” Maj. Gerald Brandsasse said.

Suffolk business owner LeOtis Williams delivered the keynote speech at the memorial service. He praised the “boldness” of the approximately 190 Suffolk police officers as well as law enforcement across the country. He commended their efforts to combat crime and serve citizens.

He said he wants citizens to get to know the officers in their community and reach out to them.

“Some people think they can’t be approached, but they can,” he said. “I want people to get more engaged with the police officers and what they do in the community.”

Brandsasse said Suffolk is “a huge supporter” of the police department.

“It’s a very dangerous job to be a police officer,” Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson said. “It’s important to appreciate them and what they do.”