Inspiring the Valley: Honoring police officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice

Inspiring the Valley
April 05 2021 05:30 pm

Every year the nation pauses to remember peace officers killed in the line of duty, including law enforcement from across Fresno County.

It was a ceremony full of imagery, the color guard, the presentation of the wreath, the rifle salute.

A decades old observance to honor peace officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Every branch of law enforcement gathered at Courthouse Park in downtown Fresno to pay tribute to fallen officers from through out the state.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer spoke of the sacrifices, but there was also acknowledgement that the shine on the law enforcement badge has been tarnished by controversy, making it easy to forget the good police officers do.

“I think so often police officers and deputies are under appreciated, they are under valued, much of what they do is so quiet behind the scenes, the rescues they make, the calls they go on,” Dyer says.

The sacrifices they make, no one knows that more than the families of the fallen officers. It is a loss that stays with them.

“You see here the people that attend, sometimes they have lost family members 2, 3, 5, 10 years ago but they come back to remember those people and to also to appreciate every single day the work that’s done in law enforcement,” says Lisa Smittcamp, the Fresno County District Attorney.

This day is about the families. Sylvia Wilson lost her brother, officer, Michael D. Avila in 1981. He was a member of the Parlier Police Department.

“I come for him so they won’t forget him or our family will never forget him,” Wilson explained. “We can move on but my brother is with me everyday.”

Nine-year-old William Smith is from a law enforcement family. He was proud to watch his step-dad take part in the ceremony.

“I want to be a police officer when I grow up so that way I can help people,” Smith says.

Protect and serve: An oath they take seriously. An oath some have given their lives trying to uphold.

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