Joe was a hero, and that’s not a word police officers use lightly about each other.
Joe was also my friend. We shared the bond of brotherhood that exists between those who swear to protect and serve. He also liked my crime novels because he knew I got it right when writing about what cops do on the job. His death was tragic because it was totally unnecessary. Had he been fully informed and briefed by his higher-ups, he’d be alive today to see what a beautiful young woman his daughter has become.
Joe was a total professional devoted to his career. He loved the job. He also loved his wife and daughter with the that same devotion and commitment. It was with Tonia that he found a way to have the richly fulfilling family life he’d not had before.
A bear of a man with a zest for life, he was approachable and had a great sense of humor. He was the kind of officer you wanted at your side on those tough calls. He’d always have your back.
My photo with Joe was taken when he asked me to speak at the graduation ceremony for the Citizens Police Academy he’d started with the sheriff’s department to educate interested civilians about the workings and basic functions of law enforcement. To this day, folks who went through the training Joe provided still revere his memory.
I know, because they tell me so.
So here’s to the memory of Sergeant Joe Harris. I’ve told you about him because I want you to know what the best of police work is all about, and to remember the vast majority of men and women who wear the uniform do so to uphold the core values that bind us together as a civilization.
And here’s to Tonia and Ally, because they are heroes in their own right for all they’ve had to endure and painfully recover from since that early morning of July 16, 2009 when Joe was murdered.
When you think of them, remember the sacrifices families make for loved ones who choose to protect and serve.