A Santa Maria ceremony Wednesday morning honored the eight law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2022 across California and remembered the Santa Maria motor officer who died 20 years ago this fall.
The Santa Maria Police Department hosted the Peace Officers Memorial in the station’s parking lot for the first time since 2019 after the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellations of annual remembrances for several years.
A table sitting in front of the large stage for the morning ceremony had pictures and information about the law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty last year, continuing an annual nationwide remembrance that began in 1962. The Santa Barbara Police Department held a similar ceremony Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Santa Maria police Cmdr. Jack Dunn III reflected on the eight men who took the oath to become peace officers “a selfish gesture of courage, strength and honor.”
One died in a helicopter crash into the ocean, others were shot and killed responding to calls, one died when he was struck head-on while riding his motorcycle and another died from injuries received in an on-duty training exercise, Dunn noted.
“Today we honor them, their sacrifice and let their loved ones know that their loss is not in vain,” Dunn added. “Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It takes a unique person to put others before them and swear allegiance to defend those lives and preserves the constitutional rights of every man, woman and child.”
Law enforcement members know the possible price of the call of duty, Dunn said.
“There are no resets or extra lives, only the notion that your heroic actions may some day be remembered by the loved ones you leave behind and inspire those who fill the ranks behind you,” Dunn added. “To the eight warriors we honor today … I salute you. You will forever be remembered as protectors of freedom and serve as a guiding light for others to follow.”
The ceremony included participants from the California Highway Patrol, the Lompoc, Guadalupe and Allan Hancock College police departments along with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office.
Santa Maria Police Chief Marc Schneider read each fallen officer’s name and a bagpiper played as Police Explorers placed flowers near photos of the eight men.
Before Councilman Mike Cordero read a city proclamation recognizing Peace Officers Memorial Week, he recalled hearing local radio personality Jay Turner’s on-air mention of fallen officers during Tuesday’s show.
“Then Jay started naming off names, and I knew almost all of them,” Cordero said, his voice choking with emotion at the remembrance of his friend Officer Robert Ramos.
Ramos, a member of a department’s traffic unit, died at age 52 in October 2003 when his weapon fired accidentally as he was getting dressed for work at home.
“Bob’s unexpected passing left a huge hole in our agency and in our hearts,” Cmdr. Jesus Valle said, noting that Ramos’ wife and daughter were in the audience for Wednesday’s ceremony.
“Not a day goes by that we don’t miss, Bob,” Valle said. “But we are constantly reminded of his presence by a plaque with his picture on it and bears his name at the entrance to our traffic unit.”