In the Line of Duty, what does that term mean to you? According to Officer Down Memorial Page, there were 134 police officers killed in the line of duty last year. The two-leading cause of line of duty death categories were, killed by gunfire 47, and crashes 22. December was the deadliest month with 18 deaths followed by June with 17. Texas was the deadliest state with 18 followed by 16 in New York, 123 were male officers and 11 were female.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol has experienced 31 trooper line of duty deaths in our agency’s history since 1931. Two of these 31 were academy classmates, Corporal Michael E. Webster and Sergeant Robert A. Guilliams. Two also occurred during my 5-year tenure as the superintendent, Sergeant Joseph G. Schuengel, Trooper Frederick F. Guthrie Jr. and K9 Reed. Below lists the breakdown of how our troopers died in the line of duty.
Total Line of Duty Deaths: 31 Aircraft accident 3 Automobile crash 7 Drowned 1 Gunfire 9 Struck by vehicle 5 Vehicle pursuit 1 Vehicular assault 4 Weather/natural disaster 1
Any way you look at it these numbers are staggering. There have not been below 100 officer line of duty deaths in the United States in a single year since 1943, when there were 99. The all-time high for line of duty deaths was 278, in 1974.
The Below 100 program was founded in 2010 to eliminate preventable line of duty deaths and injuries through innovative training and awareness. The Below 100 mission states “Reduce line-of duty deaths to fewer than 100 per year (Not seen since 1943).” Below 100 has identified five key tenants by which we can Improve officer safety – areas where we can make a difference. Below 100 isn’t about statistics. It is about each and every officer, trainer and supervisor taking individual and collective responsibility for the decisions and actions that contribute to safety.
These tenants are: Wear your seatbelt. Wear your vest. Watch your speed. WIN – What’s Important Now? Remember: Complacency Kills!
It is most important we honor the ultimate sacrifice each of our 31 troopers have made to make our state a safer place for all of us. We should never forget the sacrifices made by these troopers and their families. A Trooper Monument and Memorial at the Missouri State Highway Patrol Headquarters in Jefferson City is a very appropriate way to show that honor and respect to our fallen troopers. If you have yet to contribute to this worthwhile project, I encourage you to do so!
By the way, I Googled “In the line of duty” and this is what I found, “While one is working.” The job of a law enforcement officer is more than just “working.” It is a career that will never leave you and it becomes part of who you are and your identity. Webster defines the word “duty” as follows:
NOUN Duties (plural noun) A moral or legal obligation; responsibility. “it’s my duty to uphold the law” “she was determined to do her duty as a citizen.” “a strong sense of duty”
Since 1976, Essex Garner has been a prolific artist, his work has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects, the Art Research Center, (ARC), and many other organizations. He has earned the Kansas City Urban Design Award and has been featured at the, Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center in Kansas City, the Museum of Missouri Military History, the Military Heritage Museum, as well as many other distinguished art centers and museums. He was selected as the artist to create the George Washington Carver Mural, and has earned numerous prestigious awards, recognitions, and featured exhibits.
We are honored that he accepted our request to create Life to Bronze, in dedication to his Great-Uncle Boston Daniels, who helped raise Mr. Garner, and was the first Black Chief of Police in the history of the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department. Mr. Garner used his vision and creativity to create a watercolor painting for the exclusive use of the Missouri Trooper Monument. Life to Bronze has an exclusive purpose - to raise funds so that families, children, and those who place themselves in harm’s way for our safety, will know, “we will never forget” the sacrifices made for us. I attached a link to reflections on Chief Boston Daniels, at the end of this article.
Mr. Garner titled this watercolor Life to Bronze because it signifies a live officer on the right, and a gradual change to a bronze officer on the left. His vision is that we will be successful in creating a monument that will endure for 300 years. He used live officers’ photographs to create his vision in artform.
The ability to obtain a signed print of Mr. Garners’ work is a unique opportunity, and for less than $150 is unheard of. Our supplier has provided us reduced printing cost as a contribution to the project, which allows us to sell these prints at less than $60 dollars, making them affordable, quality prints for a worthy cause.
Will you join us and become part of this legacy and communicate “our support of our officers and families?” We must all come together in order to create this lasting monument. Mr. Garner has given us beautiful strokes of pigment, shadows, inspiration, and fine art. Prints are only available here at MissourTrooperFund.org, and for a limited time. We are forever thankful for the 9 months Mr. Garner volunteered his time to support us and remember his Great-Uncle, Chief Boston Daniels, Kansas City, Kansas, and Mr. Daniels’ service to the community.
The Missouri Trooper Monument Fund (MTMF) was created in 2015, when the superintendent at the time approved inter-departmental correspondence. A committee was established to raise funds, and coordinate agreements to build a monument. A non-profit called “Missouri Trooper Fund” was established between the Missouri State Troopers’ Association and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Through many hours of meetings - the current project was launched. Keeping in mind that similar projects have taken 15 years to complete, and a previous attempt to build a monument for the Patrol failed, there was one consistent message, “fundraising is hard work.”
At a Community Foundation of the Ozarks Donor Appreciation Banquet, I heard stories of how community projects started slowly and labored for years before being kickstarted into eventual completion. Speakers at the banquet shared stories of how their struggles, negativity, and burnout ultimately led to success. The theme was that effort produces results, but only if sustained over a long period of time.
As a trooper from 1987 to 2018, I understood that a certain level of care and acknowledgement was missing, certain topics were never discussed openly, and many voices went unheard. I observed an "unwritten rule" among some private and public officials: being strong is being quiet and acting as if the tragedies and emotions never happened by forgetting or blocking it out - in essence officers should not have feelings. This unwritten rule is a weakness of the monument project insomuch because those who believe in it will speak out against the monument. My secondary employment role for many years has been private practice as a National Board Certified Counselor and member of the American Counseling Association. As a trooper and a counselor, I am aware of ethical codes to advocate for those who do not have a voice. How can we listen to those voices and validate their grief, acknowledge their sacrifice, allow them to express their pride, respect, and reverence? As part of counselor education, I recall a principle simply called “EAR” – that is first lend an ear to listen, and then respond with an Emotionally Accurate Response. When people are longing for validation, can we lend an ear, and respond in some way that is accurate for what they are going through? This is the standard of care we are capable of. Other states with similar size agencies have already created a lasting monument in response to the sacrifices officers and their families make. Key moments for me were brief conversations: Gentleman:“My family and I would like to purchase a paver for my grandfather who was a trooper, where do I send the money and the form?” MTMF:“You do understand this project may take many years to complete?” Gentleman:“We don’t care about that – we don’t care how long it takes.”
Gentleman: I would like to donate and use part to purchase a paver in my son’s name with a special message to the Patrol." MTMF:“Thank you for supporting us.” Gentleman:“A trooper supported my son.”
Civilian Employee Family Member: “My dad was a Driver Examiner, and he sacrificed a lot for the Patrol, would I be able to purchase a paver in his name?” MTMF:“Absolutely, yes.”
Mother of a Fallen Officer: “I’m sorry, but I just cannot believe that anyone would be against this monument.” MTMF: “We will just keep trying to get our message heard.”
I can think of no other venue where these families would be able to express such strong emotions, and feel supported and acknowledge the sacrifices made. The survivors of fallen officers, officers and civilians who were injured, disabled, or forever impacted emotionally by their service; citizens, and other public servants who long to have validation of the critical interaction between the Patrol and their family’s lives - everyone is included. The parent’s whose child wants to choose a profession of public service want to know, “If we make these sacrifices, will they be acknowledged?”
Recently, Missouri led national legislation for funding, Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act of 2019; it was enacted to address officer suicide, and support officer’s families. One legislator commented “Helping officers process and deal with what they must bear to keep their communities safe is an important duty we owe.” I have attached a link, (Supporting Officers and Families), at the end of this article, it contains very important information. The reason I include this information here is because this initiative is also threatened by the "unwritten rule." As these funds are made available to community mental health centers across the nation, those officers and families that are in crisis must make a choice. Choose to seek assistance in a community where everybody knows you, or choose to protect against what could be interpreted as weakness by trying to forget or blocking out these concerns as if they never happened. Keeping in mind that officers and their families in crisis are keenly aware of whether they are supported or not. The Missouri Trooper Monument is an important step in addressing the double bind, (two opposing messages), we find ourselves. The Missouri Trooper Monument openly honors past, present, and future service, and communicates "we will never forget the sacrifices officers and families made, are making, and will make." It tells officers and their families "WE GET IT" and we support you - it is an Emotionally Accurate Response. Will you be a part of the future by providing your support, stand with us and help lead the way forward? It's as easy as purchasing an exclusive print for less than $60, or a paver with a message of support. These items are available at MissouriTrooperFund.org. You will become part of our team and receive email updates, and acknowledgement that you stood up for those who go towards the danger. I am proud to say we have nearly reached $40,000 in donations, our goal is to reach $350,000 for this monument to be created by an acclaimed sculptor at BJMUNGENAST.COM- we need everyone's help. Our sincerest gratitude goes out to our supporters, BackStoppers, Officer Down Memorial Page, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and other fine organizations. Comments or questions regarding this article can be addressed to MoTrooperMonument@Embarqmail.com.