Dave Roepke, Published August 15 2010
Deputy Dewey's funeral could draw 2,000 police
Toeing the blue line in mass support is the usual response when police are killed in the line of duty, a tradition bonding cops and showing surviving family the backing they still have.
“We treat it as if there’s two families,” said Kevin Torgerson, honor guard commander for the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association, or LEMA. “The most common thing is they’re just amazed and overwhelmed that all those officers they don’t know will show up.”
Mahnomen County Sheriff Doug Krier said all 20 members of his force, dispatchers included, will make the trip down for the service in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
“We’ve never done that before,” he said. “I think it’s going to be an emotional time for us.”
Officers and support staff from the White Earth Police Department, Minnesota State Patrol and sheriff offices in Clearwater, Becker, Hennepin and Otter Tail counties will fill in from Tuesday night to Thursday morning, Krier said.
According to area police and sheriff agencies, there will be at least two dozen officers on hand from the Fargo-Moorhead area. An exact count wasn’t set yet. Fargo police, for example, will send two official honor guard members who will be on paid duty, but other officers are likely to take vacation time to attend the funeral, said Lt. Pat Claus.
LEMA is handling honor guard duties at the services and many other ceremonial flourishes and logistical details, Torgerson said. Other honor-guard officers, like those Fargo is sending, often have informal duties, such as forming a gauntlet line through which the casket is carried, Claus said.
Dewey died last Monday after struggling for 18 months to recover from being shot in the head and stomach Feb. 18, 2009, as he responded to a drunken-driving report.
Torgerson said organizers are planning for 1,000 officers at the least, with as many as 2,000 possible. He said Living Word Christian Center, the site of both the funeral and the preceding visitation, can hold about 2,600 with room for another 1,000 in overflow chapels.
A captain in the Olmsted County sheriff’s office and a longtime LEMA honor guard member, Torgerson said he thinks officers are drawn to funerals of those who died in the line of duty due to a shared awareness of the dangers they face.
“We’ve all confronted drunks. We’ve all taken that traffic stop on that busy highway,” he said. “We replay those moments in our mind. It’s not a tormented memory, but we can relate.”
Krier has been to other police funerals and sees the pews full of badges as an expression of brotherhood.
“When you all get together, it’s like one big family,” he said.
Many customary aspects of a police funeral are lifted from military traditions – among them a rifle salute and taps at the burial, color guards bearing flags during services and presenting a U.S. flag covering the casket to surviving family.
Torgerson said LEMA’s honor guard adapted its procedures from funeral rites used at Arlington National Cemetery.
Playing bagpipes has a history that extends back to early police forces on the East Coast, Torgerson said. Departments were dominated by Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 1800s, so the haunting drone of the bagpipe was a link to their ethnic backgrounds.
Krier said Dewey’s wife, Emily Dewey, told him before her husband passed that they wanted a police funeral.
“You take care of the small stuff; we’ll take care of the rest,” the sheriff said he told her.
Krier said he spoke with her on Thursday. She has been grieving with family.
“She’s holding together. She’s got a wonderful support system with her family and friends,” he said. “She will always be with us, and so will Chris.”
Torgerson said while the symbolism and ceremony can be a comfort to family, it can only do so much.
“People talk about closure and stuff, but it’s never over. We get told that over and over,” he said.
Click here for Chris Dewey's obituary
About the service
Funeral services for Christopher Dewey, the Mahnomen County deputy who died last Monday after being shot while on duty last February, will be held Wednesday in Brooklyn Park, Minn., at Living Word Christian Center. Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., with the funeral at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Crystal Lake Cemetery in Minneapolis.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535