By Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
National Police Memorial Day took on increased significance in Waterloo on Wednesday. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the brutal deaths of two Waterloo officers who were gunned down while responding to a loud music call.
Police officers placed floral wreaths on the graves of Michael Hoing and Wayne Rice as part of the local ceremony that honors law enforcement officers who lost their lives while on the job.
It is another day citizens should be reminded of the dangers our law officers could encounter on any given day.
On July 12, 1981, Waterloo police officers Hoing and Rice were gunned down by James M. “T-Bone” Taylor during a struggle at a Waterloo residence. The officers were simply responding to a loud music complaint.
Two days later, the area lost a third officer. Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. William Millikin was a passenger in a sheriff’s squad car that collided with another car as three deputies were responding to a report of a shot fired in the area being searched for Taylor.
Gov. Terry Branstad ordered all flags at the Iowa Capitol complex to fly at half-staff Tuesday in honor of Peace Officer Memorial Week, and all individuals, businesses, schools and local governments were encouraged to do the same.
Statewide, several names of officers were added to the Peace Officer Memorial at the Statehouse, including Sgt. Eric Stein of the Keokuk County sheriff’s office. He was shot and killed April 4 during a standoff near Sigourney.
Nationally, a total of 162 federal, state and local law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during 2010, according to data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. This represents a dramatic increase over the 117 officer fatalities in 2009 - which had marked a 50-year low. The number of officers killed by gunfire also rose significantly. Sixty-one died from gunshot wounds, up 24 percent from the previous year.
It is essential our peace officers have this occasion to pay tribute to their fallen comrades, because each of them realizes any day on the job can turn violent for them as well.
The annual memorial event serves not only to remember and recognize those peace officers who have died in the line of duty. For regular citizens, it can also be a reminder of what our current officers deal with on a daily basis. Each day as they get ready for their shift, they have to keep in mind they may be faced with a life-threatening situation. Each “routine” traffic stop, each call to a domestic disturbance, each drunk and disorderly - each response to loud music - could end up being a deadly situation.It is a burden our officers have decided to take on; one most of us cannot fully understand. We join them in honoring their fallen comrades, and thank them for taking on this burden in the name of community safety.