ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — The Quad Cities Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service on Sunday honored 49 officers who have been killed in the line of duty.
The QCLEOM was created in 2000 and encompasses officers from a 50-mile radius around the Quad Cities.
Each year, gold star families and law enforcement officers gather at the Rock Island County Justice Center to honor those who have died in the line of duty. Each name is read out loud, along with their department, and either a family member or fellow officer places a flower on a wreath next to the memorial.
Moline Police Lt. Terry Garmon has been involved with the organization since 2001 and was previously president. He helped organize Sunday's service, and has unfortunately seen the number of deaths grow to 49 from 42.
"It's a reminder of the inherent risk associated with law enforcement," Garmon said. "Law enforcement is family and we just want to be there for each other, and support each other and keep everyone's memory alive that has done their part and done more than they ever thought they would do."
The death toll goes back to 1869 when Muscatine police officer Thomas D. Moore was killed. Two new officers were being honored this year.
The most recent addition to the list is Knox County Deputy Nicholas Weist who died just days before the memorial service on Friday, April 29.
"It's a somber feeling knowing the recency of events," Garmon said. "Law enforcement is accustomed to always run into where the danger is, but we're human and we grieve just like everyone else does. And for us, it's a tragic loss."
Chief Deputy Steve VenHuizen with the Rock Island County Sheriff's Office has worked in law enforcement since 1992.
He remembers speaking at the service three years ago when there were fewer names on the memorial.
"My speech then was it's my hope that we never fill these spaces," VenHuizen said. "And as of this weekend, both tablets are now full. So that's a harsh, stark reality of the dangers."
VenHuizen said he worked with three of the officers whose names are on the memorial.
"There are certain names that are read that really hit home," he said. "Each and every day, we walk out of our houses really expecting to come back, and unfortunately, there's always that day for some officer."
The other addition to the memorial this year is Rock Island County Sheriff Jacob Wigers who died in Dec. 1918.