State police unveil a memorial wall

The memorial wall is across the street from the Capitol at the former State Police headquarters

A file image of the Oregon State Police (OSP) seal. (KOIN)
A file image of the Oregon State Police (OSP) seal. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — A new memorial in Salem bears the names of 33 Oregon State Police troopers who died in the line of duty in the agency’s 85-year history.

But speakers at the dedication ceremony Saturday night — from the superintendent to surviving family members and elected officials including Gov. Kate Brown — urged the public to remember that the troopers represent many more colleagues who carry on their duties.

The memorial wall is across the street from the Capitol at the former State Police headquarters, where Superintendent Holly Holcomb was shot dead on the steps on Nov. 25, 1975. His wife, Bonnie, was among the hundreds at the dedication ceremony that lasted 90 minutes, some of it in the rain.

The wall bears the inscription, “They shall neither shun responsibility nor shrink from duty in the face of danger.”

Superintendent Travis Hampton, a 25-year veteran who ascended to his current job just three months ago, said he personally knew six of the 33 troopers whose names are on the wall.

“I knew the press of their handshake, the sound of their laughter, their voices on the radio,” Hampton said. “How do I hope to convey the feeling of respect and admiration in my heart — and in the hearts of all state troopers, past and present — for the loss of their loved ones?

“This memorial — this wall — was designed to serve this purpose when words fall short.”

Three of the 33 died in predecessor agencies before the current State Police began on Aug. 1, 1931.

Of the 33 troopers, Gov. Brown said all but four were married at the time of their deaths, 22 had children, and their collective average age was 36.

“Each of the 33 troopers is forever honored by this memorial and remembered for their valor,” Brown said. “We find inspiration in their selfless service…

“Our OSP troopers and law enforcement officers face new challenges and are often asked to do more with limited resources. We should change that. Your dedicated service to our state is not taken for granted and is greatly appreciated.”

Family ties

One of the names is Scott A. Lyons, a trooper who with Sgt. James Rector died in a car crash on Sept. 2, 1997, while on routine patrol near Crescent.

His father is Bill Lyons, himself a retired senior trooper.

“No one had ever prepared me for the loss of a child. There are so many dreams, so many plans, so many things in a future that would go unfulfilled,” Lyons said.

“But that could be said for every name that appears on that wall.

“Each name represents a trooper and a family dedicated to the Oregon State Police, who is loyal and steadfast in their service to the state of Oregon. They were all an asset, they were peacemakers, they were here to help, advise and give of themselves to make a better world.”

His mother, Barbara — wife of Bill Lyons — said the memorial would be a place for the public to remember and for families to reflect.

“Sometimes we need to share that life story, and sometimes we want to just reflect quietly and be left alone,” she said.

“Today, we want to share who we are and give thanks to so many people who had this idea for a memorial and brought it to reality.”

The idea originated with then-Superintendent Tim McLain after the death of senior trooper Bill Hakim (and Woodburn police Capt. Tom Tennant) after a bomb exploded at a Woodburn bank on Dec. 12, 2008. A plaque at State Police headquarters bore the names of 32 previous fallen troopers, but there was no more room.

The memorial became reality through fundraising by the Oregon State Police Fallen Trooper Memorial Foundation, whose current president is Lt. Cari Boyd.

Among others involved were Jason Jones, Portland sculptor; Gene Bolante and Studio 3 Architecture of Salem; White Oak Construction of Salem, and Oregon State Parks, the agency that oversees the Capitol Mall.

Hakim’s wife and two children were among those at the ceremony.

Hakim is the most recent trooper who died on duty.

As each of the 33 names was read aloud, a candle was lit in a jar atop the wall.

The Oregon Senateaires, the Portland Police Highland Guard and the OSP Honor Guard also took part.

Tough job, tough words

State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, injected a reference to the current national controversy over the use of force by police. She said police have a tough job.

“These are hard days for America’s police officers,” Johnson said.

“It seems as if though we are in the middle of a war on cops. Please know that many of the citizens you are sworn to protect do not believe everything they see or read in the media. Even citizens who take to the streets and denounce the police — even most of them — would call 911 if they feared for their lives or the safety of a loved one.

“You do not have to look like a superhero to be a police officer. But you need the type of extraordinary courage that not everyone has. Most of us have the luxury of avoiding people who frighten us or give us the creeps. You don’t.”

Johnson got a round of applause when she concluded: “God bless our public safety officers and providers.”