‘Make it worth the price we pay’

Sheriff reinforces the message of National Police Week at annual ceremony

Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty speaks to the audience during the National Police Week Ceremony on May 16 at the county courthouse in Newton.

Surrounded by local law enforcement officers and support staff gathered on the north lawn of the county courthouse for the annual National Police Week ceremony, Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty held back tears when recalling the on-duty and line of duty deaths of fallen comrades.

During the time that the six fallen officers served, Halferty was alive and living in Jasper County. However, as a child he had no recollection of the deaths of reserve deputy Howard Holdefer in 1973 and officer Donald “Rusty” Hewitt in 1977, nor the death of officer Bobby Barrickman death in 1979.

In September 1985, Halferty recalled being on a date with his college sweetheart on a football Friday night. As they drove into Newton, Halferty was shocked by the presence of a large contingent of law enforcement officers. Many were armed with long guns. They were posted at Highway 14, First Avenue and Hy-Vee West.

“Kendra and I had plans to go to Pizza Hut but we drove to my parent’s house where I was living,” he said. “My mom, Melba, was a scanner fan and she quickly filled me in that a Newton officer had been shot in an armed robbery that evening in the Hy-Vee store. I remember we stayed up all night glued to the scanner.”

Officer Daniel McPherren did not survive his injuries. McPherren had been an officer in Newton for almost 12 years. When Halferty started his law enforcement career as an officer for the Newton Police Department, he was quickly reminded of how the ultimate sacrifice can occur in so many ways in law enforcement.

Halferty said he attended many area funerals, shootings, car accidents, medical emergencies and ambush killings. They were common but not frequent. A few years after he began working with Newton, another young police officer was hired. He and Halferty worked many night shifts together.

“As our careers moved on, I took a position with the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office and he moved up in the ranks,” Halferty said. “So, on another September day, in 2013, I received the devastating news from Lt. Ron Cook that we had lost Lt. Pat Richardson. This one was really close to home and it really hurt.”

Years went on. Halferty’s career continued to climb. Law enforcement continued to change, and departments began to face challenges that were once unheard of: staffing shortages, meth labs, heroine and fentanyl overdoses, administration of the drug NARCAN, derecho, political unrest, protests and the pandemic.

Toward the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jasper County law enforcement lost another member of the team: Prairie City Police Chief Mike German. It was a COVID-19-related sickness that took him from his family and his fellow law enforcement officers.

“No doubt he put himself into the many situations during the pandemic that exposed him to these dangers,” Halferty said.

Recently, Jasper County dedicated the bridge along Highway F-62 over the South Skunk River to Holdefer, which Halferty said has become a recognition to honor the life and memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. “So why is it important to have an annual memorial service?” Halferty asked.

The county sheriff said it is important for those officers currently serving to memorialize and reflect on all those who served before them in order to honor them and their families. Earlier, Halferty had thanked the family members of the fallen officers for attending the ceremony, assuring them they will not forget.

“You, too, have sacrificed in the loss of your loved one,” Halferty said before thanking those present who are serving, those who have served and the ones who will one day serve their community as a member of law enforcement. “…Know that your service is appreciated and recognized.”

Halferty said he prays that law enforcement no longer has to designate any other Jasper County bridges in honor of officers who died in the line of duty.

“Why do we continue to do this knowing that next year one of us could be on a blue wreath? I cannot speak for all those present that are serving, but what I can do is to encourage you via song — no, I’m not going to sing — that I’ve listened to a thousand times,” Halferty said. “But the words hit home this week.”

Haflerty recalled the lyrics of “Fight the Good Fight” by Triumph:

Fight the good fight every moment

Every minute, every day

Fight the good night every moment

Make it work the price we pay

Every moment of your lifetime

Every minute and every day

Fight the good fight every moment

Make it worth the price we pay

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.