OOfficers who died in the line of duty were honored and remembered today at a memorial service at Tucson Police Department Memorial Plaza.
Dozens of officers gathered to pay tribute to their fallen brothers.
Eight red roses and several wreaths symbolized the end of watch for eight Tucson police officers. One by one, families brought up the roses as the names of fallen officers were read aloud. Officers who left behind families and friends, many of them still grieving.
For Nohemy Hite it's been five years since her husband, Erik, was shot to death in the line of duty.
"You get used to him not being there," Hite said. "It's still hard, very hard."
She shows up every year at these memorials as a single mother, embraced by the Tucson police family.
Hite said she hopes to turn her tears into triumph by pushing for legislation that will help police families.
House bill 2389 includes what's called the "Fireman's Rule." So for example, if an officer gets injured or killed in a high speed chase, the law would allow their families to go after the suspect who caused that chase, and get compensation. It is something any citizen can do in case of an accident.
Critics argue that police and other rescue workers presume that risk when they sign on to do the job so they should not be able to sue for damages, if they get hurt or killed on the job. Advocates of the bill say police officers, firefighters, and other rescue workers should have the same rights as any other citizen. The Fireman's Rule amendment was taken out of HB 2389, which is a big disappointment for many in the law enforcement community.
"Police officers should be given the same rights as every other citizen," said police Government Affairs Director, Sgt. Jason Winsky. "At the end of the day, a police officers is also a human being: they can be injured or killed. When that happens, [they] should have the same rights and remedies as any other citizen."
Hite said she planned to push lawmakers to re-introduce the Fireman's Rule, saying it would bring peace of mind to families of our law enforcement officers.
Tucson Police Sgt. Robert Carpenter who almost lost his life when he was shot in the head during a burglary in November of 2012 was the guest speaker at tonight's memorial. He is still in recovery. Carpenter said he almost became the 9th fallen officer when this incident happened, and he was grateful.
"When I was shot, after I fell to ground and saw the blood, I prayed," Carpenter said. "I prayed for my family. I was worried I was not going to survive."
"It's not how our officers died that made them heroes, it's how they lived," said Tucson Police Department Chief Roberto Villasenor.
"Though they may be gone they will always be remembered, their memories will live forever," added William Bonanno, president of the Tucson Police Officers Association.
The bill is currently pending in Senate.
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