ELYRIA — As a trainer, Elyria police Officer Brandon Pool said he knows the onus for making sure every new hire to the Police Department understands the dangers of police work is partly on him.
You have to make it home every night, is what Pool, 32, said he drills into every new recruit.
Seven years ago, Pool was not a member of the Elyria Police Department.
He was not working when police Sgt. James Kerstetter was shot and killed in 2010, leaving behind a wife, three daughters and a band of brothers to mourn. On Wednesday afternoon, a brief observance and wreath-laying ceremony at the Elyria police station marked the occasion and the passing of time was most noticeable among the changing faces.
Each year the number of officers in the city who knew and worked with Kerstetter diminishes. Since March 2010, Elyria has hired more than two dozen officers, yet that does not mean the honor of sharing Kerstetter’s story becomes less important, said Police Chief Duane Whitely.
“It’s to share the history of the department and this city,” he said. “It’s a reminder of what can happen when doing your job as a police officer. We were all here. They weren’t. The only way they will know this history is if we tell it.”
Kerstetter was the department’s first death in the line of duty in 67 years.
Police Lt. Deena Baker said the first day of training for most new hires includes a presentation on Kerstetter and Patrolman Howard Taft, who was shot and killed after arresting a man suspected of drunken driving in 1942. Recruits listen to the final words of Kerstetter, heard over the police radio dispatches, telling his fellow officers he had been shot, and they are told of the kind of officer Kerstetter was — dedicated, tough and fair.
“Officer safety is always important, and in talking about that day, we recognize the need to honor our fallen and fully understand the importance of making it home every night,” she said.
The year Kerstetter was killed, Pool was 25 with a dream of following the footsteps of his father, Kevin Pool of the Sheffield Police Department.
Pool was one of the first officers hired in Elyria after Kerstetter’s death. He walked into a department forever changed by losing one of their own.
“When it happened, it was just before we went to the academy,” Pool said. “I was well aware of it. It is surreal because it put things into perspective of how dangerous this job is. He gave his life for our community, for what he believed in and for what he loved.”
On the road, Pool said safety is always the first and last lesson.
“I tell them to rely on each other, rely on your backup and always go back to your training,” he said. “You are trained to when it’s possible go on two-man calls because safety comes first. You can get the bad guy later.”
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