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 The Southfield Police Department honor guard performs a 21-gun salute May 17 on the grounds of Southfield City Hall.

The Southfield Police Department honor guard performs a 21-gun salute May 17 on the grounds of Southfield City Hall.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

Southfield Police Department memorializes fallen officers

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published May 22, 2019

SOUTHFIELD — The spring rain held off just long enough for the Southfield Police Department to commemorate National Police Week through a memorial ceremony.

Acting Chief Brian Bassett hosted the ceremony at 10 a.m. May 17 in the Southfield Police Memorial Garden, on the grounds of City Hall.

The Southfield Police Department honor guard presented the colors, and Police Chaplain Father Jeff Schleeler offered the invocation.

“We gather today to remember the courage, generosity and spirit of service of all our law enforcement officers. We pray that you will always keep them safe and bring them home each day to be with family and loved ones,” he said.

Bassett said that in 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day.

Memorial services began in 1982, and the event has grown into a weeklong commemoration commonly known as National Police Week.

The memorial is also held to remember the lives of police officers James W. McMahon and Donald H. Harding, the only two Southfield officers to be killed in the line of duty.

“National Police Week pays special recognition to those officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, such as our two officers, Donald Harding in 1962 and James McMahon in 1971,” Bassett said.

According to a previous report, Harding was the first Southfield officer to be killed in the line of duty. He was killed on Aug. 4, 1962, at the age of 27. He was struck in a squad car by two drag racers on Eight Mile Road.

The squad car hit the base of a tree, killing Harding and hurling his patrol partner, Officer James Kirkpatrick, 40 feet. Kirkpatrick suffered serious injuries from the crash. The suspects were never identified.

Harding had been married for four years, and he had one daughter.

McMahon, the son of a retired Detroit police officer, was killed in the line of duty on Jan. 22, 1971, at the age of 25. McMahon was hit by a drunken driver while replacing flares on Nine Mile Road after a car accident.

McMahon had just announced his engagement to be married two weeks before he died. The drunken driver who hit him was sentenced to less than two years in prison by an Oakland County Circuit Court judge.   

In 2018, Bassett said, 163 officers died in the line of duty in the U.S., and so far in 2019, 43 officers have been killed.

“Sacrifices are made by officers every day (that) include missing key events in the lives of family, working all hours of the day and night, all while continuing to serve our community with professionalism and dedication,” Bassett said. “Officers put themselves in harm’s way knowing that it may — and too often does — result in losing their lives, leaving grief-stricken friends, family, colleagues and loved ones all in the name of service to others.”

Southfield Mayor Ken Siver also spoke at the event.

“It’s particularly tragic that young men, 25 and 27 years old, their lives were taken really senselessly in what could have been avoided if the perpetrators had done the right thing,” Siver said. “I think it’s fitting that we continue to remember their service and hope that we never have a repeat of incidents like this.”

To finish the ceremony, a wreath was placed on the memorial headstone in honor of the officers by Specialist Timothy Gougeon.

De’Asia Wells played taps, and Alistair Hill played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.