Cass County Sheriff’s Office remembers fallen officer

Published 8:00 am Thursday, May 18, 2017

While the much has changed about the way law enforcement operates over the years, one thing has remained constant about the service that the men and women who wear don the badge undertake: that danger is always lurking around the corner.

On Wednesday, members of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office joined other area law enforcement agencies and residents of the community to honor the sacrifices made by their fellow officers in the line of duty, locally and across the nation.

The department hosted its annual Police Officers’ Memorial Service ceremony on the garden outside the department in Cassopolis. Gathering on the green, hilly space, with the sun shining through the line of trees at the summit, the officers paid tribute to their comrades who gave their lives to protect their community: in particular, Cass County Deputy Shane Britton, who perished in the line of duty on July 19, 2000.

Britton, of Marcellus, died after losing control of his vehicle and crashing into a tree on M-62 in Jefferson Township while en route to a call from the Ontwa Township Police Department. Britton had served with the department for more than year prior to the crash.

“He served us all with pride and honor,” said Deputy Tiffany Graves, reading from a prayer written for the ceremony. “Shane was one of us. He served whenever and wherever needed. Shane was confident and proud, honored by the people’s trust. He carried his shield, mindful of his sacred duties.”

Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke — who served with Britton during his time with the department — said the officers have honored their fallen brother-in-arms every year since his death. A rock sporting a plaque with Britton’s name was installed at the garden, serving as a permanent memorial to his sacrifice.

“He was an awesome officer and an awesome guy,” Behnke said following the ceremony.

During the ceremony, Behnke read a letter from Britton’s mother, Beth, who filled the attendees in on the current happenings of the late officer’s family. Britton’s wife, Lynn, is currently working full-time in a hospital wound care clinic, while their daughter, Alise, is preparing to graduate from high school next month. Their son, Luke, is finishing up his second year of college and is looking to enter a police academy to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“Thank you for all you do for us,” Behnke said, reading from Beth’s comments about the sheriff’s office staff. “You are truly servants of God.”

Wednesday’s ceremony was hosted in conjunction with National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s National Police Week, which takes place through Saturday.

Behnke said the local event was intended to honor the sacrifices of every officer who laid down their lives in the line of duty. The danger that officers face in their service to the public was highlighted locally nearly a year ago, when two Berrien County court bailiffs, Joseph Zangaro and Ronald Kienzle, were shot and killed when an inmate attempted to escape custody before a hearing at the St. Joseph courthouse.

“It is important to not forget their sacrifices,” Behnke said.