President Barack Obama paid tribute Saturday for a grateful nation to law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice while safeguarding their communities.
Americans “rely on a certain order in our lives, a certain sense of security that lets us sleep safely in our beds and walk around our neighborhoods free from fear and go about our daily lives without being the victims of crime. That sense of security doesn’t come on its own,” he said in brief remarks on the west front lawn of the Capitol during Peace Officers Memorial Day, which honors officers killed in the line of duty. “What makes it possible, what makes freedom possible, are the law enforcement officials that we honor today,” he said. The event is part of National Police Week, an annual tribute to law enforcement service and sacrifice.
Figures from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund show that officer deaths declined from 138 in 2008 to 116 in 2009. That’s the fewest line-of-duty deaths since 1959, when there were 109, according to the data. More officers died in traffic-related incidents in 2009 than from any other single cause of death, but the number killed by gunfire increased by more than 20 percent, according to the group’s report.
In the spirit of honouring fallen law enforcement officers, I’d like to pay tribute to Patrol Officer Robert Lawrence Tatman. Officer Tatman was killed by gunfire on November 25, 1967. When police arrived, they found one of their own near Interstate 57, dead. Tatman was on his back in front of his own squad car, motor running, revolving lights on, and the front door at the driver’s side open. His flashlight was on his left side. His hat was on the ground near the curb. He had been shot at very close range with a .38 caliber revolver, on the right side of his chest, approx. 3 inches above the elbow. He was 27 years old, married with children.
The cause of death was severe hemorrhage due to a single bullet that went through both lungs resulting in shock. Tatman died within minutes after being shot. Judging from paraffin tests of Tatman’s hands, it seemed that his gun was taken from him and pushed into his ribs. He then obviously tried to grab the gun but it went off. The murder weapon was his own service revolver, found near his feet. Judging from the place in which the body was found, the absence of blood trails, the lack of wounds on Tatman’s back, clothes, shoes, and the back of his head, his body had not been moved. Tatman died where he fell to the ground.
To this date, the city of Champaign, Illinois, honours its two fallen officers and have named streets after them. They are Officers Thomas Dodsworth and of course, Robert Tatman.
Dodsworth died on July 6, 1913, during a gun battle with a local drugs dealer when Dodsworth, a day sergeant, and then Champaign Police Chief Keller, who was wounded, attempted to serve the man with an arrest warrant for liquor violations. The killer, Ray Williams, was fatally shot in the incident. Dodsworth had served with the Champaign Police Department for eight years. He was survived by his wife.
Rest in Peace, Officers Dodsworth and Tatman.