Lorraine Yaslowitz, the wife of slain St. Petersburg officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, carries a flower in honor of her husband at the annual Law Enforcement Service at the state Capitol.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida pauses to remember and honor the 13 law enforcement officers who died or were killed in the line of duty in 2011.
Bagpipes wailed in the courtyard of the state Capitol Monday as families of the fallen officers gathered for the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service.
As one speaker put it, Florida was exhausted by law enforcement funerals last year. It was one of the deadliest for police agencies across the state.
Family members were given roses to place on a flower-covered memorial of the state of Florida. The families of St. Petersburg officers Jeffrey Yaslowitz, Thomas Baitinger, and David Crawford all attended the service. Yaslowitz and Baitinger were killed while serving a warrant on a suspect. Crawford was killed one month later by a 16-year-old gunman.
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster spoke at the ceremony. He told the families their loved ones will never be forgotten.
"These officers gave their lives doing something that they loved in the service of strangers and in the name of justice protected the meek and the helpless from evil and those without a moral compass seeking to harm and to victimize. This is what they did every day, every day slipping on a bulletproof vest, a badge, a gun, and you would send them off into harm's way with unknown dangers and unexpected perils. Thank you for loving them and supporting them and sharing them with us."
James Preston of the Florida State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police said the day was not for mourning, but for celebrating the lives of the lost officers.
"It is not how these officers died that made them heroes. It is how they lived. Our survivors, our families and children, they already knew this. They knew a special man or woman who was fearless, who protected them and made them feel safe. Ours is a proud profession. These men and women were doing exactly what they loved to do. They were part of the thin blue line that stands between peace and evil."
Gov. Rick Scott said Florida's public safety too often comes at a high price. He praised those in law enforcement for their efforts and thanked their families.
"To the families and friends of the fallen, we pray you find comfort and encouragement in knowing your loved one served honorably. We may never personally know the depth of your loss but the depth of our gratitude to them and to you is unmatched."
The Fraternal Order of Police reports Florida leads the nation in line- of-duty deaths with 752. This year there have already been three officers killed on the job.