A look at GPD Honor Guard
In many police departments across the country, there’s a highly-trained unit no one hopes to activate. The unit’s knowledge, skills, and synchronized movements testify to hundreds of hours of precise military-style training. The unit exists for one reason—to represent the members’ department and their fellow officers when an officer dies. Last year, various Honor Guard units were mobilized for 135 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
In 2009, Georgetown Police Department formed its Honor Guard. “We wanted to have more professional representation at funerals [of officers] and line-of-duty deaths,” says Lieutenant Rene Alvarez, the guard’s commander.
Each of the 11 Honor Guard members attended a National Honor Guard Academy for an intensive 60-hour training that covered funeral event planning, casket movement, and ceremonial elements like coordinated drill, ceremonial firing detail, flag folding, color guard, and posting of the colors. Over the past eight years, GPDHG has represented Georgetown and assisted other Texas police departments at fallen officers’ funerals, including that of Hutto Police Sergeant Chris Kelley in 2015. They also post the colors, presenting the United States and Texas flags at various events. Their mission: “To represent the department as a highly disciplined team serving with Dignity, Honor, and Professionalism at all ceremonial functions.”
The unit’s dedication also extends to helping other agencies form or enhance their own Honor Guard units. This past April, GPDHG hosted its first academy for other police and fire departments with the goals of providing an affordable academy and standardizing practices among local agencies. “If more Williamson county agencies are learning the same things and we’re teaching everyone to do the same things, then when we all go to a funeral, we have standardized movements and look like one unit,” explains Officer Michael Morris, GPDHG member.
That uniformity reflects a common sense of honor. From the moment an officer breathes his or her last breath, members of the Honor Guard are there. They come around the family and offer a steadfast presence in the ensuing turmoil. They never leave the fallen officer’s side, silently standing watch from the hospital to the funeral home and finally to the grave. Behind the scenes, the Honor Guard coordinates and plans the funeral, from traffic control and ceremonial aspects to even the smallest details, like having enough bottles of water for hundreds of guests.
On the day of the funeral, members carefully dress in their custom uniforms, making certain that each piece is in place. Each member carries out his or her assigned duties with keen precision that speaks to their training and the motivation behind their actions.
It’s GPDHG’s honor to serve their community, the department, and fellow officers. And while they hope that they’re never activated for the death of a Georgetown officer, they train and stand ready to serve. “In that time of crisis, we’re the representation of the department,” Officer Lewis says. “We’re the ones that people see standing out there. We want our representation to be the best. Like Georgetown Police Department’s mission statement—‘We’re the standard’—our mission is to be that.”