Editorial: Deputy Shane Britton, 1971-2000

Published 7:36 am Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cass County Sheriff’s Office honors Deputy Shane Britton for National Police Officer’s Week at a service today, May 19, at noon in the memorial garden at the entrance on M-62 in Cassopolis.

His death in a crash reverberated across the Cass County fairgrounds the following day. The roll-over simulator and seatbelt convincer where crowds congregated for demonstrations stayed silent, tarps securely fastened.

His colleagues went numb with grief, their voices husky.

A somber pall fell over small groups which usually gather for convivial conversation, even though as a second-year deputy, many outside the department and the courthouse didn’t know the Marcellus resident personally.

Instead, they talked about how unthinkable an officer losing his life in the line of duty is in Cass County, and how especially tragic it was for a 29-year-old husband and father of two young children.

Not only had a duty death not occurred in the first eight years of Sheriff Joseph M. Underwood Jr.’s administration or since, no one who has been around law enforcement can recall any such fatalities during the tenures of Paul Parrish, who died May 12 at 78, or Jim Northrop, either.

Shane Allen Britton was born in Pennsylvania on May 8, 1971, to Jim and Beth Britton.

The Brittons were missionaries whose travels led them to Indonesia, where Shane grew up.

He became fluent in many languages, including Indonesian and Spanish.

By the time Shane was ready for high school, his family, consisting of his parents and his two brothers, Seth and Jim, had moved to Florida.

After high school, Shane divided his time between Florida and Michigan, working and attending school.

He followed his parents into missionary work, traveling with a group to Bolivia in the early 1980s.

South America is where he met his wife, a young woman from Canada named Lynn who was also part of that group.

She and Shane married eight years later, in July 1995.

Their two children Luke and Alise, were just 3 and 10 months, respectively.

Shane continued his studies while working and in December 1998 graduated from Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Shane served as a reserve officer in Hudsonville before joining the Cass County Sheriff’s Office in March 1999.

As Sheriff Underwood said, “Deputy Britton loved his job as a police officer and he served the people of Cass County with distinction. His reliability and dedication to duty were evident in every aspect of his work, from road patrol to court appearances to report writing. He particularly enjoyed working with people — especially children. Shane’s devotion to his family and his faith in Christ were his core values. His loss will be severely felt by everyone who had the good fortune to know him.”

He died in the line of duty at approximately 11:10 p.m. that July 19 while responding to a call for assistance from the Ontwa Township Police Department.

His vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree at M-62, north of Kamp Kozy Road in Jefferson Township.

His time here was cut short too soon, but mattered in a meaningful way to all those who carry these memories of him in their hearts. In them he lives still.

His loss is still felt — even by those who didn’t know him.