Law enforcement members throughout East Lansing and MSU are working to keep tradition alive by upping the presence of ceremonial honor guards in their departments.
This May, the MSU Police Department and the East Lansing Fire Department will host trainings for officers interested in being a part of an honor guard, a ceremonial unit often used to honor fallen officers or to represent police, fire or military units in public presentations, such as parades.
The East Lansing Fire Department has had an honor guard in place since the fall of 2007. It was established to meet the need for honoring officers who have died, as well as to further participation in the community, East Lansing Fire Department Honor Guard Commander James Ladiski said.
The MSU Police Department established its own honor guard more recently. In July 2010, MSU police officers Michael Thomas and Douglas Smith attended training sessions and became the first members of the department’s honor guard after the guard for a comrade’s funeral had to be outsourced from another agency, Thomas said.
“After that, we said, ‘We’re not going to have to do that in the future — we want to be able to take care of this on our own,’” Thomas said.
Since then, the Honor Guard has expanded from two officers to eight, and now it is headed by MSU police Lt. Randy Holton, MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said.
Officers need to undergo training — including learning how to conduct a ceremony for a fallen officer, marching and other aspects of being an honor guard member — to be in the honor guard, Ladiski said.
Although the job often is emotional and difficult for participants, Thomas said it is an important and necessary duty.
“It’s one of those things that somebody has to do,” he said.
Currently, the East Lansing Police Department does not have an honor guard established, but East Lansing police Capt. Kim Johnson said the department is in the process of establishing its own unit and currently is raising funds to start up the program.
“We really want to see it happen — it would be a nice addition to our department,” Johnson said.
“The only thing left now is the money.”
Ladiski said two personnel from that department likely will be in attendance at the training sessions, joining members of the MSU Police Department, East Lansing Fire Department and law enforcement officials from throughout the state scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day starting May 7 and ending May 11 in Demonstration Hall.
Ladiski said he was glad to see other departments in the area starting up their own honor guards, and he said it will be good to have additional ceremonial officers in case of an emergency situation, such as an officer dying in the line of duty.
“We’re glad we’re starting to work with these departments even more closely,” he said.