TACOMA, Wash. - The stories shared by friends and family at the police officers’ memorial are snippets and pieces from lives taken too soon. But they are valuable and have lessons for us all.
Tukwila Assistant Chief Mike Villa recalled how then-patrol officer Mark Renninger excelled. In 1999, he held the record for most arrests and most cases handled -- 388. He joked that Renninger's love for plumbing repair led to an arrest during a drug raid in a motel room with a running toilet.
“He lifted the lid on the tank and to his surprise discovered a plastic bag containing nearly a pound of cocaine interfering with the flush mechanism,” said Villa. “It was a great success story. He fixed the toilet and found the dope.”
Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar said Renninger excelled at SWAT - contacting teams all over the country to learn what worked best in the field.
“Every once in a while Mark would say, ‘Do you have a minute, sir?’ The translation was, ‘I want some really expensive SWAT gear and would you hear me out?”
Officer Tina Griswold's friend Pamella Battersby said Griswold never took the easy way. Both with the Lacey and Lakewood Police Departments, the diminutive officer proved her mettle.
“Tina was a tomboy. She was into riding motorcycles, mixed martial arts and was a member of the National Rifle Association,” Battersby told the 20-thousand member audience, mostly police officers from across the country and Canada. “Tina didn't like to accept favors or handouts. She always held herself to the highest standards. For example, she could not only meet the women's requirement on the PT test, but she could meet the men’s as well.”
Officer Ronald Owens’ sister, Ronda LeFrancois, said “Ronnie” was the baby of the family but became the rock when their father died. He was a joy to his family, she recalled, racing BMX bikes and humoring her friends. “In high school, we would watch in horror as Ronnie entertained my friends by break dancing in the kitchen and singing to Barry Manilow.”
The children of officer Greg Richards recalled the lessons he taught them by example.
“Our little brother says he didn't even hate the people he had to arrest,” said Austin Richards, 16. “I guess he didn't see the point of anger. It was always more important for my dad to laugh, which he did a lot.”
“He knew that it didn't do any good to have regrets or to dwell on the things that couldn't be changed,” said daughter Jami-Mae, who’s 15 years old. “He always wanted us to fix what we could, and look towards the future. And that's what he wants us to do today.”
Ten-year-old Gavin had the last word. “I know my dad is proud and honored by what he sees here today. It shows how strong the bond is between men and women in uniform and how wide it spreads. We love you all because you love him. Thank you.”