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Published May 09 2012

Ceremony honors fallen peace officers

BISMARCK – North Dakota law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty were honored Wednesday in an emotional ceremony touched by a year of loss.

A memorial service at the state Capitol paid tribute to the state’s 61 fallen law enforcement officers.

Officials gave special recognition to Bismarck Police Sgt. Steve Kenner and Burleigh County Sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Sleeper, whose names are now enshrined on the North Dakota Peace Officers Memorial.

Kenner was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance in July. Sleeper died of a heart attack in September while assisting with an arrest.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple said the officers’ sacrifice gave new meaning to this year’s memorial service. Until Kenner’s death, North Dakota hadn’t lost a law enforcement officer in 15 years.

“One year ago today, we talked about this memorial as if it were history,” Dalrymple said. “Little did we realize that we would add a name from Burleigh County and a name from the city of Bismarck.”

The value and importance of law enforcement officers in North Dakota and the role they play has never been more observed and appreciated than in the past year, Dalrymple said. He praised the men and women across the state who put on a uniform and serve and protect North Dakota’s communities.

“For this incredible devotion, law enforcement officers deserve our gratitude, our respect and our support,” Dalrymple said.

Kenner and Sleeper didn’t hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way despite knowing the risks, he said. He commended their courage and selflessness and said their sacrifice won’t be forgotten.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said heroes go where everyone else fears to go.

“These officers did not know the terrible price they would be called upon to pay, but we know that it would not have mattered to them even if they had known,” Stenehjem said. “They would not have hesitated to do their duty.”

Stenehjem thanked the law enforcement officers who put their lives at risk every day.

“Let us pray that, next year, when we gather here again, we can say that no other peace officer in North Dakota has been killed in the line of duty,” he said.

Friends and family of Kenner and Sleeper will be in Washington, D.C., next week to attend the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service.

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.

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