CHESWOLD — Police work goes far beyond arrests and traffic stops, criminal investigations and search warrants.
There are also, unfortunately, funeral services to attend.
When they occur, the Delaware State Police Honor Guard Unit steps up to provide ceremonial duties.
For five days in September, 53 ceremonial operators from 23 law enforcement agencies received instruction on how to do the same.
The Sergeant Rodney H. Bond Jr. No. 448 National Honor Guard Conference included classroom instruction and practice exercises aimed at fostering respect and precision in ceremonies held for line of duty deaths.
The training, held for the fifth time since debuting in 2013, took place at the Delaware Troopers Association facility. There have been 250 attendees from 27 other states along with multiple First State law enforcement agencies trained during the biennial gatherings.
From the start, Maine State Police Trooper Robert Burke was part of the planning stages of the conference and is an honor guard commander in his state.
“It was an idea that was put forth that we need to have a higher level of training for the specialties and disciplines that we do to honor the fallen,” he said.
“That can include something like running a funeral, being the non-commissioned officer in charge of the 21-gun salute, moving a casket from point A to point B, playing TAPS, assisting in assuring cremation customs and courtesies, proper use of the color guard.”
According to Trooper Burke, “What drives us to get it right is the fact that the hero has made the ultimate sacrifice for his community and his family and the least we can do is strive for 100% proficiency as a show of respect.”
Traveling the furthest was Alaska State Trooper Elondre Johnson, who said there’s no official honor guard in his state.
The trooper said he was in Delaware “to talk to some of the experts” as law enforcement in Alaska develops policies to institute a program.
Trooper Johnson said he understood the importance of flawlessly honoring a fallen law enforcement officer.
“First and foremost, for me, is that this is a ceremony to honor somebody that’s spent their life and ultimately given their life in a tragic way in the line of duty,” he said. “This is our one moment to present to them or their family or to the public this tradition, this honor toward them.
“We want to make sure that every move we make is with precision, every step we take is in sync and on time with our brother or sister standing to the left of us. ...
“I think it’s just a reminder of that purpose, that cause that they lived for. To see their comrades working with such effort to make these movements with such precision further highlights the importance of what this person did.”
Through fundraising efforts and support from local corporate sponsors, the conference was provided free of charge.
The conference attendees focused on the following ceremonial disciplines:
• Rifle Volley (21-gun salute)
• Casket Watch
• Urn Watch
Attendees were also scheduled to travel as a group to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
As the session concluded, DSP Capt. and Statewide Honor Guard Commander Jason Sapp said, “I feel confident that the course content, the caliber of instruction and the valuable networking and information sharing that takes place during this conference remains top-notch.
“When troopers from across the country share their positive feedback on the conference and what we are able to provide them in a week packed with not just practical exercises but also with the sharing of concepts and, most importantly, relevant experiences, it solidifies for me that we continue to package this conference up in the right way.
“By also leveraging adjunct instructors from the Indiana, Maine and New Hampshire State Police, we were able to provide the attendees with current, best practices not just from Delaware but from across the country as well.”