Law enforcement memorial services honor those lost in line of duty

Law enforcement memorial services honor those lost in line of duty

URBANA — A state senator who formerly worked as a prosecutor called on the citizenry to recognize the "perilous" duties performed by police officers daily.

"The world gets better when good police arrive on a chaotic scene," Scott Bennett said.

The Champaign Democrat was keynote speaker for the annual Champaign County Law Enforcement memorial service held Friday outside the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana.

Attendees for the 30-minute service — which featured an honor guard, the singing of the national anthem, the playing of taps and a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" — paid special tribute to the five men who have died in the line of duty in Champaign County since 1913.

Flanked by Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman, representatives of five police agencies in the county, the state's attorney and the county board chairman, Bennett lauded the work of the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to maintain order.

He emphasized the work of the three state troopers who have been killed on Illinois highways in 2019 — two by drivers who disobeyed Scott's Law by failing to move to the left and a third who, while off duty, drove his car into the path of a drunk driver going the wrong way on an interstate to shield others.

"His ultimate sacrifice was for a carload of strangers he would never know,' Bennett said of Gerald Ellis, 36, killed March 30 on Interstate 94 in suburban Chicago.

Bennett said that 16 state troopers have been hit in 2019 by drivers in collisions that he called "completely preventable."

He urged his police officer colleagues to call for backup as "any scene can turn from peaceful to deadly in an instant." And he told his prosecutor colleagues — Bennett was an assistant state's attorney in both McLean and Champaign counties before entering politics — to ride along regularly with the police to get a better perspective on what they face.

Earlier Friday, the Champaign Police Department had its own memorial service at West Side Park near downtown.

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