Hearne's name added to Law Enforcement Memorial as officers watch in silence
A chill stood in the air during mid-morning as local officials and police officers gathered around a memorial honoring slain brothers and sisters in the line of duty for a somber task.
They were adding a name to the pillar that stands in the yard of Polk County Courthouse No. 1 facing the College Street entrance, standing in silence as the motor of a sandblasting machine hummed loudly, and Dana Goss of Elberton did the work of inscribing the name of Det. Kristen Hearne and her date of death into the monument.
The monument features others who have died in the line of duty including William T. McCown of the Cedartown Police Department, John H. Buckner of the Polk County Sheriff's Office, Edward W. Jones of the Polk County Police, Billy A. Tanner of the Georgia State Patrol, Sheriff Frank Lott and Don F. Langston of the Georgia State Patrol. Erected in 2010, .the new addition was the first since it installed on the courthouse grounds, and the Wednesday morning ceremony on Nov. 1 provided a somber occasion to gather and remember all who have given their lives in locally in law enforcement.
A group of gathered officers remained silent until the work was done, and before breaking up to get back to the work of the day Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd gathered representatives from all across the county together for a word of prayer.
The work completed by Goss, which was organized with the help of David Shelton of Valley Memorials on East Avenue, was just the latest step on the journey of remembrance and healing for the officers in the Polk County Police Department.
A journey Dodd said his officers are still struggling with daily.
"We as an agency still haven't gotten over it. I see it in the guy's faces, in the way they talk," Dodd said.
More than a month after Hearne's tragic death at the hands of accused suspects Seth Brandon Spangler and Samantha Michelle Roof, not much more has been released about the case itself and likely won't come to trial for many more months to come.
Yet the everyday work of law enforcement continues, and according to Dodd the shooting death is bringing his department closer together, despite officers leaving the job.
He said that overall, his department down 8 officers and the lack of new hires is providing problems in keeping the county fully covered 24 hours a day.
"We're struggling right now, but we'll make it through and continue to do our jobs," Dodd said.
Additionally, he said his officers are working just as hard to ensure each other's safety, along with those from other departments in the area.
"There's a concerted effort among my officers to really be on the lookout for each other," he said.
Efforts are still underway to honor Hearne from the county, but plans haven't been announced just yet by officials. Additionally, fundraising efforts continue for the trust fund established for Hearne's son Isaac.
Dodd's highest hopes are that these fresh wounds will heal with time, but that Hearne's memory will provide a reminder to those serving in local police departments to always be on the watch for danger.