This is National Police Week, that time of year when Americans pause to say a collective thank you to the men and women who wear or carry the badge. During this week we thank our deputies and custody deputies for the work that they do, and those of us in the Sheriff’s Office reflect upon and refresh our commitment to protect and serve our community, and to honor those peace officers who have laid down their lives in the service of others. Somber ceremonies are hosted at agencies across the nation where names are read – sometimes from agencies far away, and sometimes from times long ago, like Santa Barbara County Jailer George Downing, who died in the line of duty in an on-duty vehicle accident in 1925.
The names that are most difficult for us to hear are those of colleagues we know, those who we have shared experiences with and who we have worked with. Sadly, at the beginning of this somber week several law enforcement officers names were added to the long list of those who have made the supreme sacrifice, including one that resonates with a number of Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputies.
The tragic shooting that took the life of San Luis Obispo Police Detective Luca Benedetti is an especially hard blow for the Sheriff’s Office. His partner, Detective Steve Orozco, who was wounded in the same shootout, is related to one of our Custody deputies. Officer Benedetti himself graduated from the Allan Hancock College Law Enforcement Academy in a class that included ten of our deputies. During their six months of intensive training in the Academy, officers and deputies form friendships and bonds that last a lifetime. As careers progress, and milestones are passed, they reflect on challenges they overcame and the people who were there with them, who shared their experiences, values, dreams and motivations to make a positive difference in their communities. When such colleagues are taken from their ranks so violently, prematurely and senselessly, they live on in the hearts of their classmates for the rest of their lives.
Sheriff Bill Brown said, “This week we and the people we protect and serve pause to remember the brave men and women of law enforcement who, throughout our nation’s history, have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom, justice and the American way of life. May we always remember and honor them for their nobility, bravery and devotion to duty, and may we never forget that – as Americans – we are forever in their debt.”