Englewood Police Detective Jeremy Bitner was one of six police officers who died in the line of duty in Colorado in 2012, the most in a single year since 1975.
“From small towns to big cities, it’s happening everywhere,” said Bill Erfurth, president of Modern City Entertainment and a retired police lieutenant who spent 26 years working with the Miami-Dade Police Department, mostly doing undercover work. “We haven’t had less than 100 police deaths in this country since 1945.”
Erfurth, who has had his share of friends die while serving, has made it his mission to change the general public’s attitude and perception of law enforcement. Teaming up with Craig Floyd, chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C., as well as a slew of well-known folks in the film industry, he set out to create a film, “Heroes Behind the Badge,” to do just that.
The movie, which just swept through Colorado this past week, including a stop at The Wildlife Experience in Parker, takes a long, hard look at the real dangers that officers face on a daily basis and delivers such facts as “an officer dies in the line of duty every 54 hours in the United States.”
“Heroes” begins with raw footage from an Ohio trailer park on Jan. 1, 2011, taking viewers behind the scenes at the first officer shooting of the year. From start to finish, it doesn’t stop delivering, giving viewers an inside look of what officers and family members endure when their loved ones put it all on the line and don’t return home.
“We didn’t sugarcoat this, we didn’t make it for Hollywood,” Erfurth said. “We made it real and raw and powerful with the intent to change attitudes.”
In Douglas County, the last officer to be killed in the line of duty was Deputy Ron King in 1999. More recently, though, was Kurt Ford, who worked for the sheriff’s office from 2002-04. Ford, who was serving in Kansas at the time of his death, was killed in the line of duty April 9, 2005, just months after leaving Douglas County.
“It was tough for all of us,” said sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ron Hanavan, who was sworn in alongside Ford in 2002. “He was part of our family. You feel the loss, but you also know how much the individual’s family has lost. I can’t even begin to have one-tenth of a small inkling of what they go through.”
Hanavan said the department has had multiple officers shot at in recent years and others who have been severely injured in car crashes or assaulted by inmates. Members of Douglas County’s S.W.A.T. team were also present when Limon Police Officer Jay Sheridan was shot and killed in the line of duty in March 2011.
“I wish more citizens would see a movie like this so that they can learn to appreciate that there are very few occupations out there that are as dangerous as being a police officer is,” said Kelly Young, president of the Colorado Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors, an organization that reaches out to families of the fallen.
Young’s husband Donnie, a former Denver Police Officer, was shot and killed in 2005 while on security detail at an off-duty job.
For more information on the film, visit www.HeroesBehindtheBadge.com.