Faulkner County residents honored eight local officers who died in the line of duty during a memorial ceremony at Simon Park on Thursday.
The Conway Police Department, University of Central Arkansas Police Department and Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office gathered at Simon Park, welcoming the community, to honor the county’s fallen officers as well as other fallen officers from across the nation.
"Every year in May we join with the rest of the country in recognizing National Police Week by honoring those law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their communities and citizens," Conway Police Chief Jody Spradlin said.
This year’s ceremony was the 10th year CPD, UCAPD and FCSO joined forces to honor the county’s fallen heroes.
Sheriff Tim Ryals opened the ceremony by leading the crowd in the pledge of allegiance, which was followed by the FCSO Honor Guard posting the colors.
"We honor our fallen officers for many reasons," Spradlin said. "It’s a reminder to our community that the deceased officer gave his life to protect our citizens. It is a life needlessly taken, but willingly sacrificed. It’s a celebration of their life also. Much like the fallen military, we feel that those that give their life for their community or country should always be honored and never forgotten. Everyone is not willing to make that sacrifice, so we recognize and show appreciation to those that do."
Spradlin and Ryals each handed roses to officers and deputies of their departments respectively one-by-one for each fallen officer. Roses were ceremonially placed in front of pictures of each of the county’s fallen officers.
CPD fallen officers include:
• Patrolman Robert W. "Bob" Martin who was killed by gunfire on March 24, 1981.
• Patrolman Barry Kent McDaniel who was killed by vehicular assault on April 2, 1982.
• Patrolman Lawrence Ray Noblitt who was killed by gunfire on Nov. 7, 1988.
• Patrolman William "Will" McGary who was hit by a vehicle and killed while directing traffic at the scene of a crash on Feb. 1, 2013.
FCSO fallen officers include:
• Deputy Oscar L. Honea who was killed by gunfire on Oct. 23, 1914.
• Deputy William E. Hathaway was killed by gunfire on Aug. 5, 1931.
• Deputy Jimmy "Jim" Wooley died as the result of a fall while investigating a theft on Aug. 5, 2003.
• Deputy Hans Fifer died from a heart attack during SWAT training on April 8, 2013.
Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry shared stories of each of Conway’s fallen officers.
He reminisced on the years past where he played on a softball team — the Faulkner Fuzzys — with Martin.
He said he was thankful that Noblit painted a red truck he had and noted that while working for the fire department he would often bump into McDaniel during shift changes. That was while Conway Fire Department’s Central Station was located on Chestnut Street, he said.
Castleberry said he did not know McGary on a personal level but heard from many he was "a great son, great brother [and] a great man."
"The men and women of all police agencies in Faulkner County, Arkansas, play an essential role in safeguarding the rights and freedoms of the citizens of Faulkner County," he said.
Castleberry read aloud a proclamation on behalf of the city, which addressed the need for county residents to know and understand the duties and services of law enforcement officers.
County Judge Jim Baker said it was important to recognize these officers for their services.
"With appropriate observances in which all our people may join in honoring law enforcement officers, past and present, who by faithful devotion to their duties, have rendered a dedicated service to their communities and have established for themselves a reputation for preserving the rights and security of all citizens."
Sgt. Ray Britton said an officer falls in the line of duty every 53 hours across the nation.
"To date, there have been 50 line of duty deaths nationwide, that’s a 35 percent increase from the same time last year. Here in Arkansas, we have had one line of duty death to date. It took place just last week."
Britton took a moment to honor Kevin Mainhart.
Mainhart served in law enforcement for more than 20 years before he was shot and killed last week during a traffic stop he made after responding to a domestic disturbance call from a home on Gum Springs Road in Dardanelle. He had stopped the vehicle because he had possible information the suspect, later identified as 42-year-old James Arthur Brown, was connected to the disturbance on Gum Springs Road.
Britton also recognized three officers who died in the line of duty in Arkansas last year — Miller County Corrections Officer Lisa Anne Mauldin, McCrory Patrolman Robert Aaron Barker and Sebastian County Cpl. William Pressley Cooper.
Ryals said law enforcement is a unique profession.
He said the sheriff’s office grieves for each fallen officer as well as their departments and their families.
"We feel the pain when another department loses an officer," he said. "We grieve with these departments as if we lost one of our own. The brotherhood in law enforcement is very much like a fraternity; like the bond military men and women share or athletes on a highly competitive team. We learn to trust our lives with our partners in uniform. We honor them for their sacrifice."
The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute followed by the Conway Fire Department’s Pipes and Drums band performing "Taps."