Law enforcement from across eastern Idaho joined together Wednesday at the Bonneville County Courthouse to honor their fallen comrades.
Officers lit 74 candles in the courthouse, stating the names of their 74 comrades who have died in the line of duty, ringing a bell 74 times, once after each name.
The solemn event was part of a nationwide memorial of officers who have died in the line of duty. Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy declared in 1962 that May 15 would be Peace Officers Memorial Day.
Last year there were an estimated 158 officer deaths according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, an increase from the earlier estimate of 144 deaths in 2018.
This was the 23rd year Bonneville County has held a Peace Officers Memorial Day event. The Courthouse was silent during the roll call of the names of the fallen, starting with Deputy Walter Coffin, 31, a Boise County Sheriff’s Office deputy who joined the force to help capture a murder suspect. He was shot and killed in 1883 after only one day on the job.
The last name read and the most recent fallen officer was Kent Donald Swanson, 47, who died May 21 from a heart attack while responding to a disturbance call.
Shelley Police Officer Mike Curnutt recalled arriving on scene and attempting to revive his friend and colleague with CPR.
“He touched the lives of everybody he worked with and everybody on the street that he dealt with,” Curnutt said.
23rd annual Idaho Peace Officer's Memorial
The 23rd annual Peace Officer's Memorial was held at the Idaho Falls Courthouse on Wednesday night. The annual memorial is held to remember the Idaho officers that have died in the line of duty since 1883. “It’s always difficult when you have to present a flag for the death of an officer,” said Lt. Foster. This year 74 officers and four canines were remembered. "We continue to do this because they’re our brothers," said Charissa Ward. "This gives us the opportunity to do it locally."
Idaho Falls Police Department Lt. Shane Kaiser spoke to those gathered on the topic of mental health and suicide in law enforcement. Kaiser said the culture in law enforcement has changed in recent years, making officers more comfortable seeking help.
Kaiser encouraged those present to speak up if they saw someone struggling.
“Our trade calls on us to be courageous,” Kaiser said. “Let us also be courageous in showing compassion for one another.”