BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — This week is National Police Week and law enforcement agencies nationwide are honoring officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Thursday Kern County law enforcement agencies held their own memorial ceremonies.
The California Highway Patrol, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Bakersfield Police Department, and community members gathered in separate ceremonies in front of the Kern County Peace Officers Memorial and other sites around Bakersfield Thursday to remember the officers who dedicated their lives to the safety and service of the community, including Deputy Phillip Campas and Officer Scott Merritt.
During the ceremony - one by one - the Kern County Sheriff’s Office deputies displayed individual plaques of 32 of its fallen officers, including the most recent death of Deputy Phillip Campas, who Sheriff Donny Youngblood called a warrior and guardian.
“We know that a full career has no limits. We know that Deputy Sheriff Phillip Campas was only here five years but the impact was enormous,” said Sheriff Youngblood. “It takes a special person to put on a badge and especially in today’s world to put on that badge, wear that patch and go to work at night and help people who don’t necessarily want our help. We try to save people from themselves.”
The Bakersfield Police Department also gathered on its front steps to remember its fallen officers, including police dogs. And in a ceremony held by the California Highway Patrol, they honored 16 CHP officers who the agency says paid the ultimate sacrifice including Officer Scott Merritt who died due to complications from COVID-19.
“Scott Merritt was a fierce investigator. He was a loyal friend. A loving husband and father. A hearing son and a supportive brother. Scott was, is, and always will be a hero because of how he lived.”
And to end a day of remembrance and week proclaimed by Mayor Karen Goh as Peace Officers Memorial Week all Kern County law enforcement officers regardless of agency were honored in front of the Kern County Peace Officers Memorial.
“The names on the wall behind me are not heroes because their names simply appear there or the ways they died but it's the way that they lived and the example that they set for all of us to serve something greater than yourself,” said Bakersfield Police Department Chief Greg Terry.
To wrap up the day of remembrance, a separate ceremony honoring all Kern County law enforcement officers regardless of agency honored those whose names appear on the Kern County Peace Officers’ memorial that stands outside of the Kern County Superior Court. The agencies say they hope to never have to add another name to this wall again.
As Kern County continues to celebrate and honor those men and women who lost their lives while serving their community. 23ABC is taking an in-depth look at the numbers illustrating the death of law enforcement officers around the country in 2021.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there were a total of 622 law enforcement deaths nationwide in 2021, including 33 in California.
The state with the highest number of officers killed last year was Texas with 107 total deaths.
The leading cause of death in 2021 was COVID-19. The virus claimed the lives of 443 total officers.
Lastly, there have been a total of 107 officer deaths so far this year with COVID-19 being the cause for 55 of those victims.