Deputy Douglas Clark, who died in 2021, was the first Manatee County law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty since 1987.
It was a painful walk for Karen Clark and her daughter, Lindsey Post, during Manatee County Law Enforcement's Memorial Service on May 19 in front of the courthouse in Bradenton.
Deputy Douglas Clark, who died Aug. 25, now has a plaque at the memorial with nine other law enforcement officers who had died in the line of duty.
Karen Clark looked out at the 10 plaques that will forever honor those officers.
"Isn't it beautiful?" she said while holding back her emotions.
Both Karen Clark and Lindsey Post said they have been able to persevere over the past nine months because they have been embraced by the entire law enforcement community.
Douglas Clark, 67, died after contracting COVID-19. He had been overseeing inmate work projects on the road gang.
Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells said it was a tragic death that shows the "hazard of the job" in a line of duty situation.
"In law enforcement, we can't protect ourselves," Wells said. "You have to perform. You have to do the job. That puts us at risk. We can't always put on a hazmat suit when we are called."
Douglas Clark was the first Manatee County law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty since Trooper Jeffery Young died Aug. 18, 1987.
The annual memorial service included remarks by Luis Laracuente representing Sen. Rick Scott's office. Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown also spoke.
"There is no promise for any of us that when we leave home in the morning we will come back at night," Brown said. "But the chance of not coming back skyrockets when you are a police officer. First responders run toward an emergency when the rest of us run away."
Wells looked out at the family members of those who have plaques in the memorial.
"There is not a particular month or day that helps erase the hurt, the pain, the sorrow," he said. "All I ask (the rookie law enforcement officers on hand) is that you serve the community the way these men and women served."
Karen Clark was hugged by many of those in attendance after the event.
"This is a great honor, but I would not wish this on anyone," she said. "Fortunately, law enforcement has been behind us since day one."
Douglas Clark became a law enforcement officer late in life when he joined the Manatee County Sheriff's Office in 2008. He worked in the corrections department for 13 years.
While emotional, Post said the annual memorial "will help us remember."
"It's everything he wanted to be," she said.
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