(Courtesy photo)

This is National Police Week, that time of year when Americans pause to say a collective thank you to the men and women who wear or carry the badge.

During this week the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office thanks its deputies and custody deputies for the work they do, and those in the Sheriff’s Office reflect upon and refresh their commitment to protect and serve the community, and to honor those peace officers who have laid down their lives in the service of others.

Somber ceremonies are hosted at agencies across the nation where names are read; sometimes from agencies far away, and sometimes from times long ago, like Santa Barbara County jailer George Downing, who died in the line of duty in an on-duty vehicle accident in 1925.

The names that are most difficult to hear are those of colleagues, those with whom we have shared experiences and worked with. Sadly, at the beginning of this somber week several law enforcement officers names were added to the long list of those who made the supreme sacrifice, including one that resonates with a number of Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputies.

The tragic shooting that took the life of San Luis Obispo Police Detective Luca Benedetti is an especially hard blow for the Sheriff’s Office. His partner, Detective Steve Orozco, who was wounded in the same shootout, is related to one of our custody deputies.

Officer Benedetti graduated from the Allan Hancock College Law Enforcement Academy in a class that included 10 of sheriff’s deputies.

During their six months of intensive training in the academy, officers and deputies form friendships and bonds that last a lifetime.

As careers progress, and milestones are passed, they reflect on challenges they overcame and the people who were there with them, who shared their experiences, values, dreams and motivations to make a positive difference in their communities.

When such colleagues are taken from their ranks so violently, prematurely and senselessly, they live on in the hearts of their classmates for the rest of their lives.

“This week we and the people we protect and serve pause to remember the brave men and women of law enforcement who, throughout our nation’s history, have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom, justice and the American way of life,” said Sheriff Bill Brown.

“May we always remember and honor them for their nobility, bravery and devotion to duty, and may we never forget that, as Americans, we are forever in their debt,” he said.