By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun
The Police Officer’s Prayer begins with the words “When I start my tour of duty, God, wherever crime may be, As I walk the darkened streets along, let me be close to Thee.”
Law enforcement officers from throughout Navarro County and Corsicana gathered Friday on the lawn of the Navarro County Courthouse to pay tribute to a dozen Navarro County lawmen who lost their lives in the line of duty.
The annual tribute takes place at the onset of National Police Week, a week set aside to honor law enforcement and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Lt. Justin Lewis of the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office was guest speaker for Friday’s event, held on the northeast corner of the courthouse lawn near the Peace Officer’s Memorial.
It was a bit of a homecoming for Lewis, who before becoming a lawman worked as a reporter for the Corsicana Daily Sun.
Lewis began his law enforcement career with the Navarro County Sheriff’s Office in 2001 — a move he made after the tragic events of 9-11. He advanced to the rank of sergeant before moving closer to his home in Kaufman County in 2008, joining the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office. He also worked as an investigator in the Kaufman County District Attorney’s Office under the late Mike McLelland and the late Mark Hasse.
Lewis spoke of his admiration for the two men, who were tragically gunned down in separate incidents earlier this year, and how they helped him grow as a lawman. McLelland’s son and daughter were in attendance for the memorial service on Friday.
He read a passage from a speech he gave at the memorial service for Hasse, honoring prosecutors as an arm of law enforcement, entrusted with keeping the public safe.
“Mark enjoyed putting criminals in jail, and loved putting really bad criminals in jail for a long, long time,” Lewis said. “But he did so fairly and consistently.”
McLelland, he said, shared those same traits of fairness, honesty and desire to help others.
“The fundamental creed of all law enforcement is ‘to protect and serve,’” Lewis said. “Keep people safe from any harm, and assist them if harm of any kind happens to find them.”
Lewis spoke not only of the tragedy of the loss of an officer in the line of duty, but work being done to help prevent law enforcement deaths.
“Good cops are going to die each year,” he said. “We’re not going to stop it.”
He stressed the need for law enforcement and the public to learn from the death of an officer, and strive to find ways to prevent it, and educate departments and agencies in the process.
“We go to work every day knowing that day may be our last.”
Lewis became emotional sharing a personal story of a field encounter with a gunman in 2011, one that resulted in a phone call his own wife received, informing her he’d been involved in a shooting.
“I was fortunate enough to make that call myself, and let them know I was all right, but more importantly each and every member of the arrest team was OK as well,” he said.
Lewis said were it not for training and awareness of the possible dangers facing them behind a closed door, there could have been a different outcome.
“We were able to react,” he said. “Complacency kills.”
Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner read a list of names of the dozen lawmen who lost their lives in service to Navarro County, then paid a special tribute to the late James Sykes, a former county constable and longtime member of the Corsicana Emergency Corps, who passed away this week.
“Although he did not fall in the line of duty, I feel that a fellow ‘brother officer’ has fallen,” Tanner said, and asked that a moment of silence be observed in his memory.
Corsicana Police Chief Randy Bratton served as master of ceremonies for the event that included special musical by Taylor Parks of Mildred High School, Dillon Lankford, and Les Grayson.
The Navarro County Sheriff’s Office color guard presented the colors for the day, and an honor guard comprised of representatives of Corsicana Police Department, Navarro County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Safety, Navarro College Police and the Corsicana Independent School District Police fired a 21-gun salute.
Bob Belcher may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “soundoff” on this story? Email: email@example.com