There was a common message in some of the speeches delivered during the Jasper County Law Enforcement Memorial service last week, and it was that of condemnation of what Newton Mayor Mike Hansen described as “disgraceful and unjust criticism” toward officers performing their duties.
“Our local law enforcement officers have went through what I think is a period of disgraceful and unjust criticism for the performing of their duty and protecting all of us as they perform their duty,” Hansen said, referring to the in-person and online backlash against the police department in the past nine months.
Hansen continued to say all the people that had gathered on the courthouse lawn on May 18 appreciate not only the sacrifices the officers have endured, but the sacrifices that their families endured in the criticism “and the hurt they feel when their loved ones are criticized while performing their duty.”
The mayor ended by saying he appreciated and applauded his colleagues in the city council for standing behind the city’s law enforcement officers at this time.
Don Hayes, pastor of the First Assembly of God and the chaplain for the Newton Police Department, offered words of encouragement to the officers attending. Today, he said, it feels like officers are facing two opposing forces; good and evil, right and wrong. Officers experience it every day, he said.
“You enforce the laws. You protect the citizens from harm. You watch over the wellbeing of our community. Whereas evil wants lawlessness, confusion, anarchy,” Hayes said before recalling a story of David and Goliath, two opposing forces facing off. “…One represents good, and the other evil and tyranny.”
The Jasper County Law Enforcement Memorial is an annual ceremony where members of nearly agency participates to honor the local officers who have died in the line of duty, dating as far back as 1973 and as early as 2022. More than 240 law enforcement officers died last year in the United States.
In Jasper County, six police officers have died in the line of duty:
• Reserve Captain Howard Holdefer of the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, whose end of watch was Oct. 30, 1973.
• Officer Donald “Rusty” Hewitt of the Prairie City Police Department, whose end of watch was Dec. 3, 1977.
• Officer Bobby Barrickman of the Newton Police Department, whose end of watch was Sept. 30, 1979.
• Officer Daniel McPherren of the Newton Police Department, whose end of watch was Sept. 13, 1985.
• Lt. Pat Richardson of the Newton Police Department, whose end of watch was Sept. 1, 2013.
• Chief Michael German of the Prairie City Police Department, whose end of watch was Jan. 13, 2022.
Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess recalled the death of Richardson, which happened nearly 10 years ago. He was a dedicated police officer and would never miss a memorial service. He also had the best looking uniform and the shiniest shoes, Burdess said. The chief thanked his officers still serving today.
“You have a tough job,” he said. “Just know your service to the community is valued and appreciated.”
Jasper County Sheriff Deputy Marc Headington was also honored as the Law Enforcement Professional of the Year. Headington, who has been with the department for 21 years, has served in many compacities including as a field training officer, firearms instructor, tactical team leader, animal control deputy and with the Honor Guard.