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Once A Policeman, Always A Policeman: Retired officers stand in rain to honor fallen heroes


WILKES-BARRE — They stood in the rain to honor old friends who stood together once upon a time.

The Wilkes-Barre City Police Retiree Association held a memorial service Saturday morning at the Wilkes-Barre Police Memorial in front of the city’s police station on North Washington Street.

The service honored deceased members of the city police department and all law enforcement officers who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

About 20 retired officers showed up for the service, despite a steady rain on a cool gray day. They stood at attention as a wreath was laid at the memorial that honors the service of officers who are now deceased. Bagpipes played and a trumpet sounded out “Taps.”

The memorial service has become an annual tradition, held almost every year since it started in 1992, according to Wilkes-Barre Mayor and former city police Chief Tony George.

George and former city police Chief Joseph Coyne chatted with reporters and each other just before the service began.

Coyne, a hale 85, said the weather did not bother him or most of the retired officers, who learned to work in all conditions.

“We are ready to go,” Coyne said, adding with a smile that the cloudy gray sky and showers made for “combat conditions.”

Amid much joshing and banter, a serious undertone ran through the brief ceremony.

George, speaking before the event began, noted that being a police officer today is a difficult and dangerous job.

Robert Mitchell, president of the retired officers association, agreed. The unique challenges of police work help form a lifetime bond among law enforcement officers, Mitchell said.

“Once you’re a policeman, you’re always a policeman,” he said.

Following the ceremony, some of the retired officers lingered near the memorial, chatting and reminiscing.

Bill Berneski, a retired detective who served the city for 34 years, said one reason former officers attend such events is to show support for current officers.

“We are dedicated to our profession” at a time when political leaders seem inclined to distrust or criticize the police, Berneski said.

The memorial service was timed to usher in National Police Week, which runs from May 14-20, George said.

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