Bowden: Willingness to die is true power

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 19, 2016

Circuit Judge Ben Bowden speaks.

Circuit Judge Ben Bowden speaks.

While honoring their fallen brothers in blue, local law enforcement officials were told their greatest power is their willingness to die for others.

On Wednesday, members of the public, the law enforcement community, and city government gathered at the Wilbur Williams Law Enforcement Training Center in honor of the eight officers who have given their lives in this county since 1965.

Those in attendance who spoke included Chief Paul Hudson, Mayor Earl Johnson, Sheriff Dennis Meeks, District Attorney Walt Merrell before Circuit Judge Ben Bowden gave the formal address.

Alabama State Troopers Pickett and Amis salute during “Taps” at Wednesday’s memorial service.

Alabama State Troopers Pickett and Amis salute during “Taps” at Wednesday’s memorial service.

Johnson thanked the law enforcement community for their dedication, and discussed the ever-changing state of the country.

“It seems things are changing in our country,” he said. “You didn’t hear of people walking up a police officer and shooting an officer. A large portion of the population seems to have lost respect for law and order. Those of you who wear blue or brown, you are the ones who stand between those folks and me and my family,” he said.

Meeks agreed.

“Respect for law enforcement officers has become less and less,” he said.

Meeks attributed the problem to parents not taking responsibility for their children and teaching them work ethic and how to treat their neighbors.

“We must also remember we, too, we must be respectful,” he said. “You never know when having compassion might change their lives forever. Let us strive to be the kind of officers that would hold our profession to a higher standard.”

Merrell referenced Ecclesiastes, where the Bible talks about there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.

“Some of you, like myself, grow weary from the toil,” he said. “Why do they keep relapsing? Why does he keep beating her? Why won’t he straighten up. What is it we gain through our toil?”

Merrell said through their actions they are helping offer peace to the afflicted.

“We absolutely must finish this race.”

Bowden said it was a high privilege of his to share the relationships he has had with local law enforcement.

“I want to talk to you a little bit about power,” he said.

He referenced Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.

At one time, Roosevelt was the police commissioner in New York City, but he walked the streets to ensure his men had everything they needed and to get to know them.

“There is a lot of talk these days about the power of the police and the use of that power,” Bowden said. “Mostly, I might add, by people who don’t have a good understanding of what they are talking about.”

Bowden said this week he read an opinion piece from a retired judge who had stopped a city’s policy of “stop and frisk.”

“She suggested it had done wonders for the race relations between the poor and the minorities and the police department in the city of New York,” he said. “Maybe that’s true. What she didn’t comment on is how many lives were and continue to be destroyed by criminals who would be deterred or stopped by good police work with a simple stop and frisk. My guess is there are hundreds or maybe more victims who wish somebody would stop crimes before they happen.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” he said. “On a day when we honor the fallen, I want you to think about what makes you powerful.”

Bowden said it’s not a person’s uniform, badge or unique training, etc.

“Your true power comes in this one simple principle,” he said. “Each one of you is willing to lay down his or her life in the line of duty. Any punk with a gun can point it at somebody. It takes a unique person to use that weapon as a tool of protection and peacemaking. Only somebody willing to die for somebody else has real power.”

Honored at the memorial were Sgt. Raymond M. Carlson, Alabama State Troopers (1965); Trooper Brooks D. Lawson, Alabama State Troopers (1969); Trooper Kenyon Lassiter, Alabama State Troopers (1974); Sgt. David Campbell, Andalusia Police Department (1984); Lt. Troy Woodall, Alabama Beverage Control Board (1990); Hubert Anderson Sr., Red Level Police Department (2003); Michael Brandon Lassiter, Covington County Sheriff’s Office (2004); and William Heath Kelley, Covington County Sheriff’s Office (2014).