Dori: King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht’s Office, where death gets no dignity
Grief. Civility. Respect. All of these are natural phases of loss when a beloved husband, father, brother and son – and a respected colleague — dies.
Painful, emotional stages like these are preserved for us all — unless you’re trying to honor a 35-year-old King County Sheriff’s deputy who died from complications associated with COVID-19 while proudly serving us and our local community.
Leaving behind his wife, four children, countless family members and law enforcement brothers and sisters, Deputy Ryan Gallemore passed away in October, just weeks after contracting the virus, as he remained committed to his career protecting our region after his earlier service in the military.
The most honorable among us call this a line of duty death, deserving of the rites and rituals accorded those who have passed before Deputy Gallemore.
Regretfully, King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht, commanding officer of Gallemore and his colleagues, does not. In fact, sources tell me the sheriff is opposed to any post-mortem observances for Gallemore. No honor guard at the hospital. No heartfelt police escort at the funeral home. No casket watch – a time-honored ritual of sentry for a fallen brother or sister. And no plans for the funeral day’s Honor Guard ritual: an ensemble of officers crisply snapping the casket-draped American flag, folding it into presentation for Gallemore’s widow in a heartbreaking and inspiring gift of reverence and regard.
Dozens of KCSO deputies and others have told me that these and other beautiful traditions are being vehemently nixed by Johanknecht.
But it gets even worse.
When deputies told the sheriff that they would serve these duties on “their own time,” she went, in their words, “berserk.” In fact, when they reiterated their commitment to their colleague, Gallemore, Johanknecht’s response spiraled. His death, she insisted, was not in the line-of-duty. Johanknecht’s ruling is that a cop COVID death gets no respect.
Why? It’s hard to say. Is it because his four children will inherit some of the financial death benefits accorded to those of a fallen parent? Is it because Sheriff Johanknecht thinks less of deputies who contracted COVID-19 while on the job, despite their brave service on the front lines during more than a year of pandemic quarantines and anti-police protests? Or is it something else?
Only Johanknecht knows the answer to this question. Her term expires in early 2022, but for some reason, this one-term sheriff is throwing bombs as she’s going out the door.
Mitzi, we can see that you’re carrying a lot of grudges, but for the sake of Deputy Gallemore, his family, and friends, do the right thing: Allow the KCSO’s proud men and women in blue to respect Deputy Ryan Gallemore’s lifetime of service to his country, his local community, and his family with the rituals that are designed for a public servant.
It’s the right thing to do.
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