The Salt River Police Department began National Police Week by remembering fallen police officers, including two of their very own, with the National Police Officer Memorial on Friday, May 13, at the SRPD Administration Building.
The event’s MC, SRPD Off. Joseph Orozco, welcomed all who attended the memorial and welcomed the guest speakers. Orozco introduced the Salt River Police Department Honor Guard for the posting of the colors. Eniketi Voss and the Kulitea Brothers sang the National Anthem.
After a moment of silence, Orozco recited the Peace Officer Prayer:
Lord, I ask for courage, courage to face and conquer my own fears, courage to take me where others will not go. I ask for strength, strength in body to protect others and strength in spirit to lead others. I ask for dedication, dedication to my job, to do it well, and dedication to my community to keep it safe. Give me, Lord, concern for others who trust me and compassion for those who need me. And please Lord, through it all, be by my side. Amen.
After the prayer, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community President Martin Harvier and Vice-President Ricardo Leonard shared some remarks.
“I am grateful for this opportunity to say a few words, standing before you knowing that our brothers and sisters of law enforcement are remembered today,” said Harvier.
He explained that he recently walked through the Peace Officers Memorial at the Arizona State Capitol, and as he left he took the time to find the names of SRPD fallen officers Jair Cabrera and Clayton Townsend.
Off. Cabrera was shot and killed while making a traffic stop on the Community. He was 37 years old and had served with the SRPD for seven years. Off. Townsend was struck and killed by a vehicle while making a traffic stop on the Community. Townsend was 26 years old and had served almost five years with the SRPD.
“I am grateful to be part of this event, to say that today we remember and will never forget Officer Cabrera and Officer Townsend for paying the ultimate sacrifice in providing that protection and safety to the members of our Community. And as tragic as those events [are], we learn from those tragedies, and in learning hopefully things like this won’t happen again. But we know we cannot [let] our guard down. To you men and women serving as officers of this Community, we are grateful for the example you have set and we are grateful for the leadership,” said Harvier.
He concluded by saying that he truly believes when we leave this world and when we go to the other side we are not alone. He then read a poem by Robert Longley titled “A Hero’s Welcome.”
“For many years we have attended this event to memorialize the officers who have passed. It’s always heartbreaking that there are more [law enforcement officers] throughout the nation who are losing their lives,” said Leonard. “I want to thank the [Salt River] Police Department for their dedication to the Community. It’s hard to lose two of our own; nobody in the Community would expect these types of things to happen. Whether they say it or not, whether they express it or not, our people are very humble and happy that you are out there [to answer] the call of duty and the work that you do. On behalf of the Community, thank you very much.”
“On behalf of the 258 men and women of the Salt River Police Department, we appreciate your attendance today and your support,” replied SRPD Chief of Police Karl Auerbach.
“As we know, our Community, state and nation are protected by men and women who have sworn a holy oath to proudly take a stand, to serve, and to protect. We know these heroes as our public safety, our police, our fire, our department of corrections and also our armed forces,” said Auerbach. “We honor these men and women, their lives and their service, and their final act on this Earth; police officers, the guardians of the people. Yet we also must remember how they lived and must never ever forget their ultimate sacrifice. Please keep all of our Salt River police officers, our hometown heroes, in your daily prayers.”
Since 1791, more than 22,500 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty in the United States. That total includes 120 police officers from Indian Country jurisdictions, 33 of them from Arizona. Two of those 33, officers Cabrera and Townsend, are from the Salt River Police Department.
Police Commanders Jonathan Gann, Walter Holloway, Alejandro McDaniel and Anthony Sandoval read the names of all the fallen Indian Country officers from Arizona inscribed on the Wall of Honor.
A flagpole rose ceremony was conducted. Commander Gann escorted Officer Townsend’s mother, Toni Townsend, and SRPD Communication Manager Kimberly Clark as they laid a single rose in honor of both fallen officers at the base of the SRPD flagpole. To conclude the memorial, Vice-President Leonard sang a memorial song in the O’odham language and Chief Auerbach provided closing remarks.