By EMMA BARTLETT
Each year in the U.S., more than 900,000 law enforcement officers put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of others. To honor those who have sacrificed their …
By EMMA BARTLETT
Each year in the U.S., more than 900,000 law enforcement officers put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of others. To honor those who have sacrificed their lives and celebrate those who continue to protect the country, the Cranston Police Department participated in National Police Week and held their 28th Police Memorial Ceremony on May 18.
Major Todd Patalano spoke at the memorial service, mentioning that federal statistics show violence and property crimes rates continue to remain low in portions of America thanks to dedicated service of men and women in law enforcement.
“That protection however comes at a price,” said Patalano.
Each year in America, roughly 60,000 assaults on law enforcement officers occur and result in nearly 16,000 injuries. Over the last decade, an average of 146 officers have been killed in the line of duty each year.
“There have been over 22,000 officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Patalano said.
According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, 617 officers died in 2021; this is the highest number of officer deaths since 1930. Of those deaths, 439 were due to Covid and 178 individuals were killed by gunshots, stabbings or assaults.
Winquist shared that the second leading cause of officer deaths in 2021 following Covid was traffic fatalities. In 2020, the country saw 42 deaths and 2021 saw a 33 percent increase with 61 deaths. In 2021, 84 law enforcement officers died from felonious assaults.
“These officers willingly accept the inherent dangers associated with the profession,” said Winquist.
Since the department’s last memorial service in 2019, the Cranston has lost 14 officers: Detective Robert G. Baccari, Detective Steve Agresti, Sergeant James S. Cooke, Detective Robert J. Nunes, Detective Christopher D’Ambrosio, Sergeant Anthony Massimino, Major George Carello, Detective Joseph J. Pelosi, Detective David A. Palazzolo, Officer Walter L. Thurber, Major Robert W. Ryan, Captain Robert H. Brown, Detective Raymond C. Flynn, Jr. and Sergeant Ronald Guilmette. These names will be added to the memorial outside the Cranston Police Department’s headquarters.
On the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in D.C., over 22,000 names are listed with 53 from Rhode Island. Of those, three officers are from Cranston.
The first name is Chief John Bigbee. In November of 1908, a small fire broke out in a barn near Cranston Street and Gansett Avenue. Bigbee lived nearby and was in charge of a small shed which housed a hose reel for fighting fires. To fight the fire, Bigbee and his son, Richard, pulled a hose reel from the shed and brought it to the scene – hooking it to a hydrant. In pushing the reel across the street, a chain snapped and caused a laceration on Bigbee’s lower leg. As a result of this injury, he got “blood poisoning” and died several weeks later on December 11.
Henry Johnson is the second death the department experienced. On the night of August 12, 1930, motorcycle patrolman Johnson was at the corner of Arnold Avenue and Narragansett Boulevard when he observed a suspicious person. After questioning the man, Johnson decided to arrest him. The man pulled a gun out and shot Johnson at point blank range in the abdomen. Johnson returned fire at his assailant who fled the scene. Johnson died as a result of his wounds on August 14, 1930, at age 32. He was survived by a wife and son. The assailant was tried and convicted and died in prison years later.
The third passing was of Sargent Walter C. Busby on February 12, 1979. Busby and two patrolmen attempted taking a man who was attempting suicide into custody. The man had taken a large amount of pills and was threatening to strike the officers with a glass bottle he had in his hand. After a sustained struggle, the man was handcuffed and physically carried down a stairwell; he continued to scream, kick and struggle in any way possible. After carrying the man out of the house, Busby collapsed. Firemen at the scene tried to revive him; Busby was transported to the hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. At the time of his death, he was married and had two children.
Winquist shared that thanks to funds from previous Sargent James Brooks, FOP Lodge, a memorial was created in the Cranston Police Department’s foyer and includes photos and other items to pay tribute to the city’s fallen officers.
Mayor Ken Hopkins thanked Cranston’s 146 law enforcement officers for their service, sharing that he is constantly inspired by their dedication and courage to put their lives on the line and make Cranston safer.
The International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Cranston Police Relief Association, Cranston Police Retirees’ Association and Fraternal Order of Police laid the wreaths for the event on May 18. Local students took part in the event with Hailey Bobeck and Marina Mancini saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem. Christian Ranallo and Brody Devine played “Taps.”
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