The sacrifices that those who have given their lives in the line of duty will never be forgotten. It is a bittersweet thought to know that they are gone, but we can take solace by remembering them, and the good that came from the lives that they lead and the impact that they had.
The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority immortalized the memories of the brave men, women, and animals who served as law enforcement officers in Lake County and made the ultimate sacrifice to protect who and what they loved in the line of duty.
A wall commemorating law enforcement officers was unveiled at the Old Lake County Court House on Tuesday July 21, 2015. It had names of recent officers and went back in time, including individuals who have served and sacrificed their lives in the line of duty during the last 100 years.
"The Thin Blue Line separates the citizens from chaos," Speros Batistatos, President and CEO of the SSCVA said to the crowd who gathered for the unveiling. "When discussing the outrageous crimes of John Dillinger it's also important to discuss the brave men and women who were on the front lines at the time battling this individual. This wall is the very last part of the museum and we thought that it would be fitting to leave you with thoughts of the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice and had their end of watch called in Lake County."
53 names were read by the Chiefs of Police from the Gary and Merrillville Police Departments. Names of men, women, and K9 units were recited, getting their place in Lake County's history.
"On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Lake County Court House Foundation, I want to welcome you all here today," Marty Wheeler, President of the Lake County Court House Foundation said.
"I'm in my 43rd year of law enforcement. And as I stood listening to the names being read, I had the realization that I worked with many of these officers personally," Sheriff John Buncich said, who dedicated the wall. "I laughed with them, I cried with them... and I attended their funerals. We are the Thin Blue Line, I'm proud of my profession as all the officers here today are, and I hope this memorial lasts forever."
The wall unveiling marks the first of three days of a special celebration in Crown Point. The John Dillinger Museum, located in the lowest level of the courthouse, will open the day after on July 22, which is the 81st anniversary of Dillinger’s death.
The third day, July 23, the annual Crown Point Car Cruise will be the main spectacle on the Square. Cars new and old, classic and muscle, American and imported, will be parked in the downtown area for the visual enjoyment of spectators, with a special section dedicated to cars from Dillinger’s time. The movie “Public Enemies” starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale will be played on the courthouse lawn that evening, weather permitting.
Crown Point boasts a lot of history, but it’s important to note the message and the lessons learned from this specific bit of history. Dillinger was indeed a criminal, and though Depp made him look cool in the film, he caused considerable damage. The purpose of the museum, as Crown Point Mayor David Uran makes clear, is not to celebrate Dillinger’s actions, but see how law enforcement dealt with them and show what happens to someone who gets into a life of crime.
"When you walk into or out of the museum you will pass the wall honoring our fallen officers and remember what they did for us and our community," Crown Point Mayor David Uran said. "As a former law enforcement officer of Crown Point myself, this hits home because normal citizens run from crime and we ran toward it."
Dillinger’s transgressions did come with positive impacts though. He had a significant impact on the BOI (Bureau of Investigation) or what we all know now as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). New strategies, education, and rigorous rules were put into place and law enforcement was able to gain more control over organized crime.
"It's a notable time for law enforcement and government as they both began to evolve from that point forward," Mayor Uran said. "They made the changes to make sure that crime didn't pay. If things hadn't happened the way they did then we wouldn't have the resources and technology that we have today."
After the dedication, the Pipes and Drums of the Lake County Sheriff's Department performed and then everyone made their way outside to hear the playing of "Taps", which will play every day at dusk from a specially designed sound system, courtesy of Bill Wellman, SSCVA Board vice chairman.
Information and names on the wall were thoroughly researched by Jeffery Williams of the Officer Down Memorial Page (odmp.org).