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Today is Police Memorial Day, the annual remembrance of the nine Baltimore County Police Department's who died in the line of duty, as well as department members who died while in police service.

BCoPD's fallen officers are: Officer Edward Kuznar (d. 1969); Officer Charles A. Huckeba (d. 1977); Corporal Samuel L. Snyder (d. 1983); Officer Robert W. Zimmerman (d. 1986); Sergeant Bruce A. Prothero (d. 2000); Officer John W. Stem Sr. (d. 2000); Sergeant Mark F. Parry (d. 2002); Lieutenant Michael  P. Howe (d. 2008); and Officer Jason L. Schneider (d. 2013).

The ceremony, usually held at Patriot Plaza in Towson, was moved due to inclement weather to the County Council chambers at the Historic Courthouse in Towson. Here is the text of Police Chief Jim Johnson' remarks:

Good morning, fellow officers, honored guests and citizens of Baltimore County. Thank you for taking the time to be with us as we observe our annual Police Memorial Day. This is an occasion to remember the nine Baltimore County Police officers who gave their lives in the line of duty and, in so doing, to contemplate the meaning of the work that we do.

I do not need to tell you that all across this nation law enforcement finds itself beset by turmoil, controversy and danger. Here in Maryland, police over the past 12 months have been touched by all three.

The turmoil from the 2015 unrest in Baltimore City – felt keenly here and the other counties touching Baltimore -- carried over into the New Year and has yet to see resolution in the courts and in the court of public opinion.

The controversy spawned by the Freddie Gray incident and by contentious incidents in other towns, cities and states continues to dominate headlines, foment divisions and cast an unrelenting spotlight on our mission, methods and motives.

Police work is inherently dangerous. The danger is not – as some critics of law enforcement contend – a myth. Police have not invented a threat in order to avoid a conversation about accountability. We understand fully the need to explain and defend the use of the powers entrusted to us, and to confront errors and wrongdoing on our part. We are not imagining that the times have produced anger and resentment over everything from economic and racial injustice to mental health issues and the perceived failure of institutions. All of this has morphed into a feeling of disdain for governmental authority in general and of contempt for police in particular.

While most Americans respect police and understand the challenges we face each day, the present climate is a breeding ground for non-compliance with and violence against officers. Even wholly justifiable police actions are scrutinized, criticized and second-guessed in TV and newspaper stories, on social media and around water coolers. Pervasive anti-police rhetoric empowers the few – the unbalanced and the radical – to turn their feelings into deadly action.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice published a study on ambush attacks on police. It notes, “Concerns about targeted violence against police are rising in an era of strained community relations, struggles with police legitimacy, and anti-government extremism.”  After years of holding steady, the number of ambushes on police is rising and now constitutes the second-leading cause of shooting deaths of officers; the recent deaths of two Harford County sheriff’s deputies and a Prince George’s County detective in unprovoked, sudden attacks make us painfully aware of this fact.

It is nearly two years – an eternity in this era of 30-second attention spans -- since events in Ferguson, Missouri started us down this difficult road, and still there is no end in sight. We must remember that the tenacity of this national debate shows that citizens in many communities have experiences and a point of view to which attention must be paid. The discontent is not based on nothing.

And yet, as an officer for more than 40 years who has witnessed the commitment and sacrifice of thousands of fellow police men and women and the ultimate sacrifice of far too many, I am disturbed by the disparagement of our profession. I am troubled at the stubbornness of the chosen narrative of “problem policing,” even when the facts show an officer properly responded to a threat.  I am concerned that the mood of the moment may cause some – even some of us – to question the nobility and worth of our calling.

Last year, 124 U.S. officers gave their lives in the quest for a peaceful, orderly world; 42 of them died by gunfire. Thirty-five already have died this year. These figures actually understate the risks. Given that the number of non-fatal shootings is rising, we can conclude that the number of fatalities would be even higher were it not for advances in protective gear and other technology – and especially for advances in the Fire, EMS and medical profession. These first responders are saving people who in earlier eras would have died, while taking on plenty of risk themselves. They are our partners, and we thank them.

To take a longer view, consider the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. More than 20,000 names of officers killed in the line of duty are inscribed on this monument; the first known death dates back to 1791. Regardless of when they lived and died, these were men and women of valor: Fearless in the face of danger, caring of their fellow man, driven by a cause more important than themselves.

Our nine fallen heroes are remembered there, as they are here:

Edward Kuznar … Charles Huckeba … Samuel Snyder … Robert Zimmerman … Bruce Prothero … John Stem … Mark Parry … Michael Howe … Jason Schneider.

This morning is a time to remember them as we knew them – as friends, as fathers, as sons and brothers. It is a time for laughter as we recall them in happier times. It may be a time to feel the pangs of grief anew.

But most of all, this ceremony is a chance to reflect on why we are police officers … and why – no matter how fraught the times – the work we do matters.

UPDATE (April 7, 2016  9:42 a.m.):

Baltimore County Police continue to investigate a school bus crash in Parkton yesterday that left 10 people injured. 

The preliminary investigation into the crash has indicated that a Baltimore County School bus was traveling north-bound on York Road north of Bunker Hill Road. The bus lost control, crossed over south-bound lanes of traffic, went off the roadway, struck a utility pole, and turned on its right side. 

There were at least 43 students and one driver on the bus. The driver, 65-year-old Bonnie Faye Pessaro of Freeland, was transported to Sinai Trauma Center for treatment. Her current condition is unknown. Nine of the students on the bus were transported to area hospitals for treatment of minor injuries. 

The crash remains under investigation by the Baltimore County Police Crash Team. That investigation is expected to take several weeks.     

UPDATE (April 6, 2016  9:31 p.m.):

The Baltimore County Fire Department has updated the number of people involved in this crash.

There were 42 people on board the bus. The driver was taken to Sinai Trauma Center and nine students were transported to area hospitals. None of the injuries are believed to be life threatening.

UPDATE (April 6, 2016  4:35 p.m.):

The Baltimore County Fire Department has updated the number of people involved in this crash.

There were 42 people on board the bus. The driver was taken to Sinai Trauma Center and eight students were transported to area hospitals. None of the injuries are believed to be life threatening.

Original release (April 6, 2016  3:49 p.m.)

At 2:36 p.m. this afternoon, Baltimore County Police and Fire personnel responded to the area of York Road and Bunker Hill Road for a crash involving a school bus. When officers arrived on the scene, they found a Baltimore County School bus on its side.

There were 39 people on board the bus. The driver was transported to Sinai Trauma Center and five students were transported to other area hospitals. The rest of the students were taken to Hereford High School.

The cause of the crash remains unknown.

The crash is being investigated by the Baltimore County Police Crash Team. That investigation is expected to take several weeks.

Police Chief Jim JohnsonBaltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson is at the White House this morning, meeting with other national law enforcement leaders and President Obama regarding the President's executive actions designed to reduce gun violence.

Johnson is the chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence; he also represents the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

The Partnership and Johnson long have supported measures designed to keep firearms out of the hands of those not legally entitled to possess them, including stronger background check processes, ensuring that those engaged in the firearms sales business follow the rules that apply to them and additional resources for agencies responsible for enforcing gun laws.

Details of the President's executive action are provided on the White House blog.

Speaking on behalf of the Partnership, Johnson said that the President's actions provide clarity on existing laws, prioritize enforcement of gun crimes, provide additional resources to the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and increase mental health treatment and reporting about people with mental health issues who are prohibited from gun possession.

"These are reasonable actions that will help protect our communities at a time of tremendous concern about gun violence and terrorism," Johnson said, adding that "none of these measures interfere with lawful gun ownership."

Text of announcement by National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence:

WASHINGTON — Leaders of the nation’s major national law enforcement leadership organizations today participated in a meeting with President Obama where he announced and discussed a series of concrete actions designed to reduce gun violence, including measures to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are not legally entitled to possess them.

 The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence (the Partnership), comprised of national law enforcement leadership organizations, is pleased to see these vitally important actions move forward, which will enhance public safety and support law enforcement’s efforts to reduce gun violence. 

“These critical enforcement measures will strengthen existing background check processes, ensure that those who are engaged in the business of firearm sales follow the rules that gun dealers are required to follow, and provide law enforcement increased support by better resourcing the agencies charged with enforcing gun laws,” said Chief Jim Johnson of the Baltimore County (MD) Police Department, who represents the Major Cities Chiefs Association and serves as the Chairperson for the Partnership. 

Many of the steps announced by the President this week have long been a part of the Partnership’s policy agenda and are consistent with its statement of principles. “These very reasonable enforcement actions will better protect all of our communities at a time of heightened concerns about gun violence and about terrorism, following the San Bernardino incident,” said Johnson, who added, “It is vital that everyone understand how critical these measures are to the safety of our communities, and that none of these measures adversely impact lawful gun ownership.” 

 “The President’s actions to provide clarity on existing gun laws, prioritize enforcement of gun crimes, strengthen the NICS system by addressing the gap in mental health and other disqualifying records, and his allocation of greater resources to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for NICS system improvements and to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for additional agents and investigators will all make our communities safer,” said Johnson. 

The Partnership has long stressed the vital role that ATF plays in enforcing gun laws and reducing gun violence, and has urged that ATF be better resourced to carry out its vital mission as the only federal law enforcement entity with reducing gun violence as its primary mission.  The Partnership has also been calling for the nomination of a permanent director to lead ATF. 

The Partnership’s policy priority has been the use of and requirement for background checks prior to all firearm sales.  “Background checks have already blocked more than 2.4 million prohibited purchases since the Brady Law went into effect in 1994. “Today’s actions will go a long way, but we will continue to press for universal background checks and are grateful for the President’s support,” said Johnson. 

The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence (www.lepartnership.org) is an alliance of the nation’s law enforcement leadership organizations concerned about the unacceptable level of gun violence in the United States. The Partnership is working to address the pervasive nature of gun violence and its horrific impact on community and officer safety. 

 

 
 

Revised June 28, 2016