Oct 22, 2021 8:00 PM

Schmidt criticizes Kan. governor for missing law enforcement memorial event

Posted Oct 22, 2021 8:00 PM
Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican candidate for governor in 2022, is criticizing Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for missing the October memorial service for fallen law enforcement officers. (Screen capture of Kansas Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation/Kansas Reflector)
Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican candidate for governor in 2022, is criticizing Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for missing the October memorial service for fallen law enforcement officers. (Screen capture of Kansas Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation/Kansas Reflector)

Service honored placement of additional seven names

By TIM CARPENTER
Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — Kansas gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt believes Gov. Laura Kelly should have attended the October memorial ceremony at the Capitol honoring law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.

Schmidt, a Republican who serves at the state’s attorney general, spoke at the event along with Jeff Zmuda, secretary of the Kansas Department of Corrections. Three of the seven names added to the memorial this year had been employees of the state corrections department.

Kelly, a Democrat seeking re-election in 2022, was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to attend the Democratic Governors Association fall policy conference.

Gov. Laura Kelly set a wreath at the Kansas Law Enforcement Memorial in 2020 when the public service honoring officers killed in the line of duty in Kansas was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Screen capture from office of the governor/Kansas Reflector)
Gov. Laura Kelly set a wreath at the Kansas Law Enforcement Memorial in 2020 when the public service honoring officers killed in the line of duty in Kansas was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Screen capture from office of the governor/Kansas Reflector)

“Governor Kelly’s disappointing decision to skip their annual memorial service, which this year recognized the sacrifice of seven more fallen Kansas officers, in order to attend a partisan political meeting poorly represents our state’s priorities and values,” Schmidt said. “Kansans love and respect the men and women who serve honorably in law enforcement.”

Schmidt, who is considered the top law enforcement officer in the state as attorney general, has attended the memorial services since sworn into office as attorney general in 2011.

The 2021 observance was originally scheduled for May, but was delayed to October due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 service honoring Kansas law enforcement officers was cancelled, but Kelly placed a wreath at the outdoor memorial.

“We must recognize the continued commitment of all our law enforcement officers,” she said last year in a video message. “Their bravery, dedication and professionalism warrants our sincere praise and gratitude.”

Kelly was the first governor to miss the service at the limestone memorial on the northeast corner of the statehouse grounds since Gov. Sam Brownback was absent in 2011. In her place Oct. 8, Zmuda of the state Department of Corrections addressed the crowd along with Schmidt.

The memorial was established in 1987 and includes names of 293 men and women, including 190 who died of gunfire and 27 who perished in vehicle accidents.

Sam Coleman, a spokesman for Kelly, said partisan attacks by Schmidt in terms of the law enforcement memorial “only serve to wrongfully politicize an important issue.”

“Governor Kelly supports our law enforcement and their families, which is why she fought for pay increases for members of state law enforcement, and this year she signed the Michael Wells Memorial Act which increases benefits for the families of first responders that die from a work-related condition,” he said.

Col. Herman Jones, superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol, said Kelly had been a dedicated advocate of Kansas law enforcement officers.

“In the last year alone, she has supported everything from the Kansas Highway Patrol’s officer recruitment and new academy class efforts, to upgrading equipment and providing new tools to keep our patrol men and women safe,” he said.

The three state corrections officers included on the memorial this year were George Bernard Robare, Olufela Adebiyi and Gabe Morales. Each died last year of COVID-19. Sheriff Allan Weber of Gove County, who also had COVID-19, was added to the memorial.

Other law enforcement officers to die in the line of duty in 2020 and placed on the Kansas memorial were Michael Mosher, an Overland Park police officer shot by a hit-and-run suspect in Johnson County, and Daniel Abramovitz, a deputy corporal with the Leavenworth County sheriff’s office killed in a traffic accident. In addition, historical records prompted inclusion of Charles McKinney, who was assistant police chief in Independence, Kansas, when shot and killed in 1920.