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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Jean Colebrook Wawrzyniak puts up a plaque Friday for her husband, Melvin C. Colebrook, at the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial at the Utah Capitol. Colebrook was killed in the line of duty.

Law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting Utah's communities will have a memorial officially dedicated on the west grounds of the Capitol in their honor today.

Several dignitaries are expected to be in attendance, including Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, members of the Utah Supreme Court and Elder Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as well as a large number of spectators and hundreds of family members of the fallen officers.

But for some, the most emotional moment of the dedication came before today, before any of the crowds gathered, before most of the media's cameras were on, before all the pomp and circumstance and before many of the dignitaries arrived.

All this week, families and loved ones of officers killed in the line of duty have traveled to Capitol Hill, where they were handed a copper plaque with the name of their fallen officer. The plaques were then inserted into the new memorial wall where they will stand for generations to remember those who gave their lives keeping Utah safe. At the top of the wall are the words, "In valor there is hope."

"We're so happy they did it that way. It makes it more personal," said Carolyn Jones, whose husband, Garfield County sheriff's deputy Dave Jones, was shot and killed outside Escalante in 2003 after pulling over a suspected drunken driver.

On Friday, a color guard stood watch as families approached the wall after their names were called. They posed for pictures with their plaque and then placed the plaque into the wall.

Families are hoping that the memorial will become more than just a wall of faceless names. They hope the public will remember there is a story behind each plaque.

Organizers Friday told the story of Lee Isbell as his family was called to the wall. Working as a city marshal for the Richfield Police Department, Lee was shot and killed in 1921. A generation later, his name was forgotten, even by his own department. It wasn't until many years later through the work of Robert Kirby, the memorial's historian, that Lee's name was uncovered.

Also Friday, Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank joined the family of detective Percy Clark as his plaque was secured to the wall. Clark was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1973.

Carolyn Jones placed her husband's plaque on the wall Friday. Before her name was called, she said she expected the moment to be very sentimental.

"It will be emotional, more emotional this time than the first time because I know what it represents," she said.

When people come to see the plaques, Jones said hopefully they will see more than just faceless names. She hopes they will see the names and think about fallen officers like Fred House, shot and killed during the Singer-Swapp standoff in Summit County in 1988; or Roosevelt Police Chief Cecil Gurr, who was shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute in 2001; or Salt Lake police officer Jim Faraone, who was hit and killed by a car while helping with a traffic accident on the freeway.

"It's important that they are not forgotten, that they did put their lives on the line. Especially for the families that are left, it's important that they have that place again they can go and say, 'This is your dad, or your mom, and this is what they did,"' Jones said.

The original Fallen Officer's Memorial was in the rotunda of the Capitol from 1988 to 2006. Renovation of the Capitol temporarily displaced the memorial, however, and for two years the state went without one. In May, ground was broken on the new $1.3 million structure that includes three bronze statues that will be unveiled publicly for the first time today.

"They will depict law enforcement officers in real life situations," said memorial board vice president and Saratoga Springs Police Cpl. Aaron Rosen, who did not want to disclose many other details about the statues. "They are extraordinarily emotional. Each has a different feel."

One of the statutes will be of a female officer, the other two male, he said.

Between 2,000 to 3,000 people are expected to attend the 10 a.m. event today, which will include a formal roll call ceremony to honor the 125 men and one woman killed in the line of duty.

For Jones, she said she is pleased with the memorial and thankful for the work of Kirby and the committee that spearheaded the effort.

"I feel like my husband gave his life for something now other than someone not wanting a $100 open-container ticket," she said. "That hurts a lot knowing (my grandchildren) will never know their grandfather. But they can be part of (the dedication ceremony). They can see he was important to everyone around us."

"The whole thing is just very sweet," added Birgitta Wood, whose son, West Jordan police officer Ron Wood, was ambushed by a 17-year-old boy and shot in 2002. "It was really cool to see all those police officers' names there. It's a wonderful thing. It'll be a special thing to come and visit now and then."


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com