FARMINGTON – San Juan County, New Mexico, law enforcement, including the Sheriff’s Office, Farmington Police Department and Aztec Police Department, celebrated police memorial week Monday with a candlelight vigil to honor fallen officers.
Sheriff Shane Ferrari said close to 50 people showed up at the Lions Wilderness Amphitheater to memorialize the fallen officers. Off to one side in the stands were rows of American flags with the blue stripe to honor officers killed in the line of duty.
Alex Yazzie, a Navajo Police Department officer, was recognized as having been the last officer in the area to have died in the line of duty March 19, 2015.
Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said this was the eighth memorial service local law enforcement has put on in Farmington. The memorial did not happen last year because of COVID-19.
“In this community, we’ve had several officers killed from several different agencies up here, defending San Juan County and defending our citizens,” Hebbe said in a speech at the event. “Our job isn’t to get shot or stabbed, that isn’t the job. The job is to do their very best to protect our communities every day, and I believe that our officers from all these different agencies are doing just that.”
It isn’t just shootings or stabbings that are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of law enforcement officials all over the country, Ferrari said. COVID-19 was what Ferrari called “an invisible enemy” for law enforcement.
“COVID wasn’t going to be something that was going to skip law enforcement and our occupation of dealing with people out in the street,” Ferrari said. “Unfortunately, we lost a lot of officers to COVID, and as a result, deaths in the line of duty went up.”
Because of the close contact law enforcement has with the public, Ferrari said officers who contracted COVID-19, most likely as a result of their duties and died, were considered to have died in the line of duty.
“Every day, our brave men and women in law enforcement put on their uniforms, kiss their families goodbye and walk out their doors not knowing if they will return,” Ferrari said in his speech. “The sacrifice and hardships they endure should never be underappreciated. Let us never forget those law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty to make our community safe and protect the freedoms we enjoy.”