Updated: May 16, 2014 at 10:51 pm
Blue balloons floated one-by-one into the sky at Memorial Park Friday morning as Colorado Springs Police Department Lt. Catherine Buckley read the names of 30 fallen peace officers from the Pikes Peak area. Minutes later, more than a dozen doves were released into the air, with Pikes Peak as the backdrop.
Amid windy conditions, several hundred local law enforcement officials family, and friends honored the fallen officers at the 21st annual ceremony, which paid special tribute to Tom Clements and Jack Coler.
Clements, who was head of the Colorado Department of Corrections, was shot to death in March 2013 when he answered the door at his Monument-area home. The shooting suspect was a former inmate who was killed in a shootout in Texas.
Coler, a former special agent for the FBI, was murdered in 1975 while attempting to serve arrest warrants on the Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Coler was in the Denver Field Office as a Colorado Springs resident agent, and was in South Dakota for a temporary 60-day assignment. His wife and two young boys stayed behind in Colorado Springs.
"These men and women are there for us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," said state Sen. Bernie Herpin of Colorado Springs, who gave the keynote address. "They do not rest in the pursuit of justice."
Col. David Grosso, the Fort Carson garrison commander, also spoke at the event, emphasizing the close relationship between local military and police officials.
Holding the ceremony at Memorial Park presages the erection of a new Peace Officers Memorial, which will join the Veterans Memorial and Firefighters Memorial already on site. The Pikes Peak Region Peace Officers' Memorial Board set a 36-month goal to get the new memorial in place.
"It's a fitting tribute to all who have given their all in service to their community and their country," Grosso said.
The new memorial construction will cost nearly $1.1 million,, according to Colorado Springs Police Lt. Dave Edmondson, chairman of the Peace Officers' Memorial Board. The board has $220,000, but Edmondson expects that total to surpass $300,000 after Saturday's Peace Officers' Memorial Ball, to be held at the Colorado Springs Marriott.
The new memorial will honor more than a century of fallen officers, from William Shea, who was murdered in 1895, to Clements. "They are aiming for the 2017 ceremony to be held at the new memorial," Edmondson said. "We could possibly have the 2016 memorial there. I think that is very reasonable."