CUYAHOGA FALLS -- A crowd of nearly 500 people was called upon to remember fallen police officers and "do something that matters" by the keynote speaker for the police memorial service.
Four police officers were remembered on May 17 during the annual ceremony at the police memorial site on the Cuyahoga Falls Civic Center Campus between the municipal building and the Natatorium. Three died last year and one was killed 70 years ago.
Each year, the Cuyahoga Falls and Silver Lake Police Memorial and Honor Guard Foundation hosts a memorial service during Police Week to honor the memory of deceased officers and add the names of officers who passed away during the previous year to the memorial location.
In 2016, three former Cuyahoga Falls police officers died: Louis A. Dirker II on Feb. 6, 2016; Gerald D. Archer on Dec. 13, 2016; and Robert E. Kidd on Dec. 30, 2016.
In addition, this year marked the 70th anniversary of the death of Patrolman Clarence Chance, the first Cuyahoga Falls officer killed in the line of duty. Mr. Chance died on May 30, 1947, when a car pulled out in front of his motorcycle while he was in pursuit of a speeder.
"Let's remember these men," said Stow Municipal Court Judge Kim Hoover, who was this year's keynote speaker. "Let's remember what they stood for. And let's vow ourselves to do something that matters to the rest of the world, not just to ourselves."
This year's ceremony was attended by a record number of people. Retired Cuyahoga Falls Police officer Steve Amos of the Police Memorial Foundation estimated 450 to 500 people turned out for the event. Those who received invitations included members of the Stow Police Department, he said. The late Louis Dirker was chief of Stow Police for 11 years after serving as chief of Cuyahoga Falls Police for two years. Mr. Dirker served with the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department from 1974 to 2001. He retired from the Stow Police Department in 2014.
Mr. Archer served on the Falls Police Department for nearly 12 years, retiring in 1980. He had served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and was a Summit County Deputy Sheriff prior to joining Cuyahoga Falls PD. Mr. Archer started the department's Law Enforcement Explorer program.
Mr. Kidd joined the Northampton Police Department in 1972, reaching the rank of sergeant. He became a Cuyahoga Falls Police officer in 1986 when the city merged with the township. He retired in 1989.
In his remarks, Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Jack Davis said he appreciates the commitment and sacrifices made not only by the officers but also by their families. Davis said although he only worked with Mr. Dirker he could see similarities in all three of the officers being memorialized.
"They shared a common thread," he said. "A common thread I think we still have today, and that's commitment. They were very committed to the city of Cuyahoga Falls. Anybody that puts on the badge and uniform is committed. When you leave your home every day, you leave your family and miss out on a lot of stuff. That takes commitment."
Davis pointed out Mr. Dirker was married 46 years; Mr. Archer, 55 years; and Mr. Kidd, 62 years. "I want to thank the families for sharing them with the city," Davis said. "They created a safe environment for me growing up and for my family today."
Judge Hoover shared humorous stories about two minor run-ins with police when he was a youth. Hoover told of when he was 10 and a Cuyahoga Falls policeman "10 feet tall" caught him throwing apples at passing cars. The officer drove Hoover home and told his mother he helped him solve a crime. Mrs. Hoover knew better, the judge said.
At the age of 13 or 14, Hoover and his friends were going out every night rearranging people's patio furniture. On about the fourth night, a Northampton Township officer caught young Kim in the act and told him to round up his friends and put everything back where it belonged.
"We spent the next few hours trying to figure out whose lawn furniture belonged where," Hoover recalled. He remembered thinking this act would surely get him "the death penalty" from his parents. The officer, however, never took him home or told his parents.
"He looked me in the eyes and said, 'Did you learn your lesson, kid?' And I did," he said. "The police are our friends. The police want to do the right thing guide you gently, if they can."
Hoover said officers should be recognized for not only dramatic events such as shootings and bank robberies but also for their "everyday heroism."
"We ask our police officers to be everything in our society today," he said. "Just as teachers are expected to raise children, police officers are expected to be marriage counselors, guidance counselors and child psychologists. People will come into my court [and say], 'All I wanted was for the police to get my little boy away from the TV and do something positive.' 'How old is your little boy?' 'He's 29.'"
"We ask them to be locksmiths, dog wardens, everything," he added. "In recent years we've asked them to be paramedics, as they're squirting life back into somebody who's made a terrible decision. They get very little thanks for this." The judge said people have stood in his courtroom and blamed the police for not getting to an overdose victim sooner with the Narcan antidote.
"You talk about a thankless job," he said. "These people do it in good spirits They get so little credit. We are gathered here because a couple of our heroes have passed, as we all will someday. But the little lessons learned, don't think they died with these great men."