Delaware law enforcement officers gathered at Legislative Mall May 3 to dedicate a memorial to their fallen comrades.


Everyone agreed it was much too long in coming, but at long last the state of Delaware has its own memorial to its fallen law enforcement officers.

The memorial, with the imposing bronze figure of a kneeling police officer facing a three-piece black India-granite wall, was dedicated in a rain-shortened ceremony night of May 3 with both Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Jack Markell in attendance. The names of 36 Delaware law officers killed in the line of duty, from John Baylis in 1863 to Chad Spicer just last year, are etched into the monument’s face.

Many of those officers’ relatives were on hand for the dedication ceremony, held at the memorial site on the south side of Legislative Mall.

New Castle city Chief of Police Kevin P. McDerby, who helped spearhead the project, called the memorial “simple in design, but profound in its statement.”

“It symbolizes the service and sacrifice of 36 law enforcement officers who gave all while serving the citizens of Delaware,” McDerby said, his voice breaking occasionally. “It also symbolizes the 36 families who had to rebuild their lives after the sacrifice of a loved one.”

The vice president was on hand because of his steadfast support of law enforcement and law enforcement officers, Markell said.

Looking out over the crowd, which consisted of the largest gathering of surviving families of Delaware’s fallen officers, Markell noted they all are part of one family, a family that knows and shares the sacrifices of those who become law enforcement officers.

And they also share the pain, Markell said.

“We are one another’s extended family,” the governor said. “And when one of us is harmed, all of us hurt.”
Biden, who shared the stage with Markell and Attorney General Joseph R. “Beau” Biden III, said the occasion was one for remembering Delaware’s fallen heroes, people who “make us all proud.”

Delaware’s law enforcement officers knowingly take on a life of danger, working to protect its citizens without the assurance they will return to their own loved ones each night, Biden said.

“We the people of Delaware owe you family members, every single one of you, a debt of gratitude, not just because of your loss, but for what you gave,” Biden said.

Biden said police officers willingly do what others would not, that they rush into a crisis instead of running away from it.

“It’s an amazing human characteristic that few people possess, but these men, these men and women, they all possessed it. We should be grateful for it,” he said.

The nexus of the ceremony was a reading of the names of all fallen officers, accompanied by the placing of a rose at the wall, in many cases by relatives of the deceased officers. That group included Aubrey Spicer, daughter of Georgetown Patrolman Chad Spicer, who was shot to death in 2009.

Each name was accompanied by the toll of a bell, and at the conclusion, a rifle salute and the playing of “Taps.”

Former Dover Chief of Police Joe Klenoski was on hand to witness the ceremony on behalf of one of his officers, Patrolman Francis T. Schneible, who died in December 1993.

“It’s well deserved,” Klenoski said of the memorial. “They gave their lives and I think it’s a good way to remember our deceased officers.”

Email Jeff Brown at jeff.brown@doverpost.com.