Police Gather to Honor Fallen Comrades : Tribute Paid to the 40 Officers Slain in S.D. County Since 1913

Times Staff Writer

Forty San Diego County law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty since 1913, but they’re not forgotten.

As a choir sang and a Marine Corps honor guard fired a rifle salute, more than 200 San Diego police and other visitors to Balboa Park’s Organ Pavilion bowed their heads in memory of slain officers.

“ ‘My God,’ we ask, ‘why is society becoming so violent?’ ” Sheriff John Duffy asked in his address at the memorial service, held as part of National Police Week.

Duffy didn’t answer his own question, but San Diego Crime Commission Executive Director Roger S. Young did. “Turnstile” courts that release criminals who proceed to commit other crimes, the decline of religion and “a general lack of respect for authority” were among the reasons cited by the former director of the San Diego FBI office.


“It’s us or anarchy,” Young said.

Of the 40 officers from various law enforcement agencies killed since 1913, 26 were San Diego police officers--12 of them slain since 1970.

The latest victims were San Diego Police Officer Thomas Riggs, killed March 31, and Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena, killed sometime in February while on duty in Mexico.

“Merely assaulting or wounding an officer is so common it may not be newsworthy,” Duffy said. “No society can long endure if its protectors cannot protect themselves.”


Police Officer Gary E. Mitrovich, wounded during police action last year, spoke briefly at the service. He said it was held “to show the community we have not forgotten--and (to show) ourselves.”

Citizens can help fight crime by joining Neighborhood Watch associations, Young said.

They can also “become an expert on courts and court reform,” Young continued. “What are the judges doing with our criminals? Do we have ‘turnstile’ justice, as some people claim? . . . . There have been some very good examples of people who should not be allowed to prey on the public and for various reasons--sometimes technical--they are released.”