Fallen officers honored at memorial

By Aimee Hancock

ahancock@aimmediamidwest.com

TROY — The Miami County Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge No. 58 held a law enforcement memorial service Wednesday at the Law Enforcement Memorial on the Courthouse Plaza.

The courthouse memorial, first dedicated in June 1999, honors the Miami County law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Wednesday’s event honored these seven officers, as well as the most recent loss of Ohio State Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspector Kimra Skelton, whose name was added to the memorial.

The names and stories of these fallen law enforcement officers were read aloud Wednesday by representatives from the fallen officers’ home department. Along with Skelton, the following fallen officers were memorialized: Marshal Harvey Hake, Covington PD; Ptlm. George Eichmeyer, Tipp City PD; Lt. Noah Studebaker, Piqua PD; Ptlm. Jan Mulder, Piqua PD; Sgt. William Morris, Miami County Sheriff’s Office; Det. Robert Taylor, Piqua PD; and Sgt. Robert Elliott, MCSO.

Friends and family of many of the fallen officers were in attendance, and flowers were placed on the courthouse LEO memorial in honor of each.

Lt. Joe Gebhart of the Ohio State Highway Patrol served as the event’s guest speaker.

“The purpose of today is to remember our heroes (and) to comfort their families,” Gebhart said. “It’s also to encourage those who still wear the badge; those who are still doing the job every day.”

Gebhart shared some of his earliest memories in law enforcement and highlighted how things have changed in the field. He noted that while the job itself seemed more “simple” during his early years, he has watched it evolve into something more nuanced.

“Today’s officers have so much more to contend with,” he said. “The demands of society are at an all-time high, and on people’s worst day, you’re called to solve the issue, solve it quickly and correctly, and in a way that satisfies even the most fickle resident. All this while being videotaped and critiqued.”

Along with these societal changes, drugs and mental health issues are also at an “all-time high,” Gebhart said.

“Simple compliance to orders is not so simple when the judgment of those that you encounter has already been affected,” he said. “Yet, you are expected to de-escalate, and bring about a successful resolution, every single time.”

Gebhart said it is these difficulties, among others that come with the job, that makes it difficult for police departments to hire and retain quality candidates. He emphasized that those who enter the field do so with the understanding that they aren’t promised “premium pay,” or weekends and holidays off.

“Yet, we accepted a career in law enforcement because it was an opportunity to make a difference; to help people. It was a calling, not a job,” he said.

Gebhart stressed the importance of holding onto the “why” when it comes to serving as a law enforcement officer.

“I know it can be extremely difficult to see how we could possibly be blessed during times like these — there’s so much noise out there on social media and in the news that it can be difficult to see what it is we’re truly doing when we put on the uniform and head out into the community. I will tell you, though, lift your head up high because you do make a difference.”

FOP No. 58 President Jeff Waite hosted Wednesday’s event, with Sheryl Queen performing the National Anthem, and Commissioner Greg Simmons, who also serves as the FOP #58 Chaplain, providing opening and closing prayers. The FOP No. 58 Honor Guard held a presentation of colors, a gun salute, a performance of Taps, and the retirement of colors.