May 14, 2014

Chief Vogel's Keynote Speech for the 2014 California State Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony in Sacramento on May 5, 2014

Chief Vogel had the honor and privilege to be invited by California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris to deliver the keynote speech at the 2014 California Law Enforcement Memorial Service in Sacramento on May 5, 2014.  Many from our community have asked us to print the Chief's speech, so here it is.     

My name is Kevin Vogel and I am the Chief of Police for the City of Santa Cruz.  I would like to begin by mentioning that every member of the Santa Cruz Police Department, both sworn and civilian, is here today for the Enrollment Ceremony.  There are 115 of us. 

The presence of my entire department would not be possible without the assistance of the California Highway Patrol and the University of California at Santa Cruz Police Departments.  I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to both of these great law enforcement agencies for making it possible for my entire staff to be present today to honor all of our fallen heroes.

I never speak of the tragedy in Santa Cruz without acknowledging and thanking the three members of my own department and the member of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office who walked through the gates of hell on the afternoon of February 26, 2013 and brought swift justice to the deranged madman responsible for murdering our two beloved Santa Cruz police officers.  Thank you.      

It is an honor to be here at our State Capitol, in the presence of my fellow law enforcement officers and the families who stand behind the badge. I am humbled to stand here in the shadow of the monument to our great state’s fallen protectors.

The names we enroll here today serve as reminders of the best and brightest among us – the ones who chose one of the most complex and difficult of professions, the ones who don the uniform and accept the greatest risk of all. 

We can never replace those we lost, but by honoring their sacrifice and remembering what made them special, we can keep them close and make them part of our everyday lives.

We must never stop telling their stories, never stop taking inspiration from their courage and never forget the families left behind.

Indeed, too often it is the friends and families that bear the sacrifices and the burden of sleepless nights.

Police work is not just a job, it is a calling.

Challenging, yet so rewarding, we are the thin blue line between good and evil.

As the Chief of Police for Santa Cruz, I am never prouder than when I can talk about the officers in my agency. Today, I have the great honor of talking about some of California’s finest – officers spanning our great state, whose stories inspire me and renew my passion to serve.

Across California, and across this amazing country, we are blessed with the greatest law enforcement officers the world has ever seen. Strengthened by their families and the communities they love, what makes these men and women our heroes is their unmatched dedication to protect and serve.

And for those we honor here today, their devotion to serving our great state is what we will remember and the love they had for their families and communities is what we will cherish.

We come together to enroll these brave heroes for lasting remembrance among the finest that have ever served our great state.

We come together to honor and remember Kevin Tonn, of the Galt Police Department. Officer Tonn served in the US Army, as an EMT and as a firefighter and fire inspector before joining the police force in Galt. Protecting people was Kevin’s calling and he did so his entire life.

We remember Riverside, California Officer Michael Crain. A decorated Marine and police officer of nearly a dozen years.  Mike had a big heart and enjoyed spending time with his wife Regina, son Ian and daughter Kaitlyn.  He loved attending dance recitals with Kaitlyn and coaching Ian’s baseball team.  Mike loved hash brown potatoes… his classic 1970 Chevy Nova… his job…. and most of all, his family.

As police officers, we are tied to each other not just by our individual departments, but by the badge and what it stands for. 

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Detective Jeremiah MacKay was part of a multi-agency tactical operation assigned to apprehend a fugitive wanted for the murders of Riverside Police Officer Michael Crain, University of Southern California Public Safety Officer Keith Lawrence and his fiancĂ©e Monica Quan.

Along with other officers, Detective MacKay located and engaged this madman in a prolonged gun battle, where Detective McKay was shot and killed.   

Jeremiah – always a teacher and a friend – loved life… loved his job… and lived to protect others.

The officers we honor today were heroes who gave their lives helping others.

Two of California’s fallen heroes were my fellow Santa Cruz police officers.

It is so rare to find someone with who has both unending compassion and an unyielding thirst for justice. In Detective Elizabeth Butler, those traits made her an exceptional police officer and an even better friend.

To Elizabeth, everyone was good at their core. Everyone deserved a chance and a voice. Her empathy was matched only by her skill as a police officer.

The same assailant who took Elizabeth from us also took Sergeant Loran “Butch” Baker. Butch was a mentor to me and countless others in Santa Cruz. He was giving, generous and had the loudest, most infectious laugh out of anyone I have ever met. Sadly, without Butch, the Santa Cruz Police Department has lost someone who did everything with every ounce of who he was.

Every member of the Santa Cruz Police Department, including me, are better because of him.  Butch would stop at nothing, whether it be to find the truth or help a friend.

That’s what this job is all about.

Officer Gilbert Cortez was known for being upbeat, for loving baseball and for being a protector – for his partner, his K9 Mattie and above all for his family. As a protector, Officer Cortez exemplified what it means to be a law enforcement officer.

We remember K9 Mattie, too. Mattie served alongside Gilbert for two years and was part of his family on and off the job.

I am humbled by these fallen heroes.

All of them would likely resist this attention – they’d tell us to get back to work – but that’s part of why they were so special.

They set a gold standard we must strive to meet.

A standard like the one set by Laguna Beach Motor Officer Jon Coutchie. Following the September 11th, terrorist attacks on our nation, Jon enlisted in the military becoming an Army Ranger, serving tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before returning to Laguna Beach and joining the Laguna Beach Police Department. He was responding to assist another officer when his watch ended.

A nine year veteran of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Jeremy Meyst was known for his laughter, his love of family and like so many great officers, his commitment to service. Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, paying tribute, said Jeremy “lived his life with a smile” and “had no enemies.” 

There are no words that can heal us forever, no sayings that ease the grief, and no replacement for those we lost.

There is nothing that can bring back their passion or their laughter.  Out of the darkness of the pain, the light of their memories will always shine bright.

Remembering what made each of them so special will help us heal.

Remembering why we admired them, why we loved them and why we were proud to serve next to them will make sure that they never leave our hearts. 

Remembering the indelible impact they had on our lives will ensure that they are never forgotten.

They believed in the best of us… and they gave our state their best every time they put on their uniform.

To the families of these brave heroes, thank you. To Kevin, Mike, Jeremiah, Elizabeth, Butch, Gilbert, Mattie, Jon and Jeremy – thank you for your service.

We know that even though your watch has ended, you haven’t stopped shaping our lives.

We know that even though your watch has ended, you didn’t die in vain.

We know that even though your watch has ended, the freedoms we enjoy today are because of you and those enrolled here before you.

My fellow law enforcement professionals, my fellow Californians, we must never forget the example they have set for all of us.

We must never forget their smiles, their laughs or their many achievements serving the communities they loved so dearly.

These brave officers leave unfinished work in our hands and I am confident that we are up to the challenge.

The United States of America has the finest law enforcement officers in the world and the State of California has the finest law enforcement officers in our nation.  Through the professionalism, courage and bravery of every law enforcement officer in our great State of California, we will continue to keep our communities safe by carrying on the work that our fallen heroes gave their lives for.  I know I speak for every law enforcement agency who has lost one of their own when I say we love them dearly and we will miss them forever.

Thank you.