VALPARAISO — The Porter County Sheriff’s Department paid tribute to the department’s four officers who have died in the line of duty, and one who died while off duty.
“2020 was a tough year for everyone, and law enforcement was no exception,” Sheriff David Reynolds said.
In addition to having to deal with COVID-19 exposure like other first responders, police officers were sharply criticized by civil rights activists. Some called for defunding the police. “There are questions about the very need for law enforcement,” Reynolds noted.
“Take time to remember those who have lost their lives to serve those they have sworn to protect,” Reynolds said.
The memorial service Wednesday attracted many community leaders.
“It’s imperative for our new officers to see who is in this room because we work with everyone on a daily basis,” Reynolds said.
In the past two years, since the last memorial service was held, the department has hired 12 new police officers and 22 new correctional officers.
“Nobody went through more than our people in the jails and prisons,” Reynolds said.
Last year at this time, the Porter County Jail had 40 inmates with COVID-19. Much has changed since then. “Not only do we not have anyone sick in our jail, we don’t have anyone sick at all,” he said.
Capt. Ryan Taylor was named 2020 Correctional Officer of the Year by the Indiana Sheriff’s Association after he created a safer booking process because of COVID-19. New inmates are subject to a 14-day quarantine as well. Taylor’s procedures have been adapted elsewhere.
Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner Rob Carter praised the Porter County Sheriff’s Department.
On Feb. 21, Lt. Eugene Lasco, a correctional officer at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, died after he was fatally stabbed by an inmate.
“The day of the funeral, I remember seeing uniform after uniform with a Porter County patch on it,” Carter said. “It still gets me choked up even thinking about it.”
It was the first time Carter had lost an officer in the line of duty.
“You’re doing it right here. This is the best county in the state for criminal justice,” he said.
County Council President Jeremy Rivas promised to provide officers with the training and tools they need.
“We’re going to fund a safe work environment,” he said.
Chief Deputy Timothy Monteuffel honored county police for their dedication.
“No one goes into police work for the money, nor do they put on a uniform expecting a life of ease,” Monteuffel said.
Chaplain Jay Birky reminded officers that their family makes that sacrifice with them.
Carter urged the officers to not neglect their mental health.