Spencer Daily Reporter's Kate Brincks - "Law Enforcement Officials Forced to be Cautious"
In the United States, more than 14,859 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty. Two Clay County deputies have lost their lives in the line of duty. Today, May 15, is National Peace Officers Memorial Day.
In 1924, Deputy Sheriff Frank Smith was killed after being called to what would now be considered a domestic abuse situation. According to a story published in the Spencer News-Herald, Smith and Sheriff John Lidman arrived on the scene, and were confronted by Frank O’Clair, a farmer living near Dickens. O’Clair shot and killed Smith, then attempted to fire on the sheriff, but the shell failed to explode. O’Clair later died of a self-inflicted
gun wound. Smith, 66, had moved to Clay County from Illinois and had been a deputy for approximately 10 years. He was buried in Illinois.
Less then five years later, a special deputy sheriff was killed by unknown assailants during the days of prohibition. Louis H. Dayton, who went by numerous aliases, including C.L. Plummer and George Cook, had been deputized in order to secure liquor sales in Clay County.
A published story states Dayton had been beaten and succumbed to his wounds less than two hours later.
The theory at the time, according to reports, was that Dayton was beaten by liquor vendors who didn’t intend to kill him.
After returning to the rooming house where he stayed, he refused to see a doctor. Following his death, physicians said that blood loss was probably not the cause of death. Instead, it may have been caused by a blood clot in his brain.
Dayton had been in Spencer for approximately three weeks, but because of his undercover work, his true identity remained a mystery for many years. His grave in Riverside Cemetery was unmarked for 70 years, until Clay County Deputy Mike Harleman, who had been researching law enforcement deaths in the line of duty in the area, donated a headstone. ”They never did mark the grave”, said Harleman. “So, when I found that out, I thought, oh well, nobody should lay without a grave marker.”
One of the goals Clay County Sheriff Randy Krukow has is to get Smith and Dayton’s names added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C. as well as the Iowa Peace Officer Memorial monument and Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association Memorial Plaque.” We want to make sure that their names are added to that, and that these Clay County deputies are honored,” said Krukow. In addition, Krukow is working with Spencer Trophy and Awards to create a memorial plaque to recognize the two deputies killed in the line of duty. Plans are for it to be displayed in the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
Every day, men and women in law enforcement encounter many unknowns and situations that can quickly transition to dangerous. ”There are a lot of men and women out there serving today that are laying their lives on the line,” said Krukow. In 2003, 145 law enforcement officers in the United States were killed in the line of duty according to the May volume of American Police Beat. Even in smaller communities and counties, law enforcement officials are exposed to risks. “If you look at the statistics, the vast majority of deaths come from smaller departments, police departments the size of Spencer,” said Spencer Police Chief Mike Lashbrook.
“The country is mainly made up of smaller departments.” Lashbrook said many of the arrests law enforcement officers make involve alcohol or illegal narcotics. This has the potential to create a perilous situation. ”I think when someone is under the influence, there is a lack of inhibitions,” the police chief said. “This can cause a person to act against the officer.”
Domestic abuse or assault calls can also be hazardous. ”That’s the worst call a law enforcement officer ever wants to go on,” said Harleman, who served as a deputy for 28 years. “With a domestic call today, there’s a lot of drugs used and it makes those individuals even more violent and more strong.” Krukow and Harleman suggested the drug culture is helping to creating a more violent society, while respect for authority continues to decline. ”It’s almost like when an officer pulls someone over, they’re almost sizing them up,” said Krukow.
Both Krukow and Lashbrook indicated law enforcement officers must be aware of the dangers and try to protect themselves. ”They want to go home to their families too,” said the sheriff. “Our goal is not to try and hurt people. Our job is to do our job and not try to use excessive force, but oftentimes, you have to meet force with force.”