Somber tone marks Porter County Sheriff’s memorial service
By John Robbins Post-Tribune correspondent May 18, 2012 2:32PM
Peggy Buffington and Nick Pratt, aunt and father of Officer Phillip Pratt, stand before his squad car draped in black bunting after the annual National Law Enforcement Week memorial service at the Porter County Sheriff's Department in Valparaiso, Ind. Friday May 18, 2012. The ceremony took on special meaning with the Wednesday death of Officer Phillip Pratt, 24, who was killed in a motorcycle crash. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 1, 2012 11:58AM
Several hundred people gathered under sunny skies Friday for the annual Porter County Sheriff’s Department National Law Enforcement Officer Week memorial service, which usually includes a “spit and polish” inspection of officer’s equipment.
This year the inspection was dropped and the service took a more somber tone with the death of Officer Phillip Pratt, who died in a motorcycle accident on Wednesday. Pratt would have celebrated his third year in the department on June 22.
Pratt joins only three other Porter County Sheriff’s Department officers who have died while in service — Edward Blakely, Timothy Hecht and Robert Hardesty. Blakely is the sole officer to have been killed in the line of duty, ambushed during an investigation. Hecht and Hardesty both died in training accidents. Hecht died during a training exercise for a newly formed SWAT team. Hardesty was with the FBI at the time of his accident.
“Once you wear the brown and tan of the Porter County Sheriff’s Department, you are always a part of us,” said Sheriff David Lain.
Pratt’s death, as did the others’, came unexpectedly. “That’s one thing we have to prepare for in this business is the unexpected,” Lain said. Speaking of all of the fallen officers, “They remind us that we cannot wait for ‘the moment.’ Every minute has to be the one we train for and they caution us to hold dearly those we love.”
Orland Park, Ill., Chief of Police Tim McCarthy was keynote speaker. McCarthy is the former Secret Service agent who was wounded defending President Ronald Reagan from an assassination attempt. McCarthy noted that those who die in the service of others are heroes, but all officers are “unsung heroes.” The challenge in public service is enduring an accumulation of small successes and a string of “unending quiet, un-heroic acts,” said McCarthy. “They do their duty simply because it has to be done.”
After the ceremony Pratt’s brother, Nate, told of how unconcerned Phil was about the dangers of riding a motorcycle. “He didn’t really care. He was always a stubborn kid. He liked to do what he wanted to do.”
Sister-in-law Lori added, “This is how he wanted to go out because he knew what he was doing.”
Pratt’s father, Nick, is still getting used to the loss of his youngest son. “It’s surreal. It comes in waves. I’m still hoping he’ll come walking through the door. In his 24 years on Earth, he was a blessing to a lot of people. He always wanted to be a cop, since he was 5 years old.
Pratt’s oldest brother, Jason, a missionary pilot in Indonesia, is expected to arrive in time for the funeral on Tuesday.