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Posted on Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Public safety funerals help grieving police officers to go on with our jobs

By Rich Kinsey

Jackson City Police Officer James Bonneau made the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens of Jackson County on March 9, 2010.

His funeral in Canton Township was attended by hundreds of police officers and firefighters from around Michigan, the United States and Canada. A huge American flag was draped across the route to the cemetery for the funeral procession to pass under. The funeral procession consisted of several hundred police cars.

This was a great tribute to a fine young officer who had dedicated his life to protecting the public.

Some may ask why police and fire funerals are such a huge ceremony.


Officers salute as the hearse carrying fallen Jackson Police Officer James Bonneau passes by on its way to the grave site on Friday afternoon in Canton Township.

Jeremiah Wilson | Jackson Citizen Patriot

Public Safety Service funerals are a tribute to a fallen brother or sister in law enforcement (or fire service). They are also an expression of gratitude from the entire emergency services “family,” as well as the community they served, for the fallen’s survivors.

These funerals are an important demonstration and reminder to all that these are dangerous jobs that are valued by our society.

For the officers and firefighters these funerals are poignant, meaningful and necessary.

They remind those in the profession that no matter how hard you train, no matter how careful you think you are being, that fate, evil and bad circumstances can combine with tragic results. In the fallen we see ourselves and from this funeral, take some comfort in the fact that there are so many out there that appreciate what we do. 

The officers and firefighters need these ceremonies to remind each other how much they depend on one another. The funerals are in some way an expression of sorrow and apology to the fallen that we, in the profession, could not get there in time to save them.


James Bonneau

Ours is a profession where seconds count and there is no worse feeling than responding to assist an officer and hearing anguish and tension in their voice on the radio. You will your car to grow wings so you can arrive more quickly to aid the officer in trouble. You make your response as loud and dramatic as you can in hopes that the bad guys will hear it and flee, or more importantly your brother or sister in need can hang on and fight for just a few seconds longer.

In public safety services, those on the front line must know that no matter what is happening, help is on the way as quickly as possible. Without that knowledge it would be almost impossible to function. 

Police and fire funerals are necessary for officers and firefighters to rededicate themselves to protecting each other and the community, no matter what.

After taps has been played, the flag has been folded, the sharp cracks of the ceremonial gun salutes and the “end of watch” radio transmission have faded, and tears and hugs have been traded among family, friends and comrades, it is time for the officers and firefighters who protect us all to get determined, saddle up and hit the streets once again. 

My sincerest thoughts and prayers are with Officer James Bonneau’s family, friends and comrades and all those who serve us in uniform. Rest in peace Officer Bonneau your spirit lives in all those who serve. Semper cop.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for



Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 4:56 p.m.

Being married to the law as a wife is tough. Was there for 12yrs. You never know when they are ever going to walk back in to the door. Futher more it is harder when you have Children between the two as I did. And as to the Fire Personal, I married a volunteer in a small town. Too have his face plaster too the local paper carrying a Baby though was alive but got to medical treatment too find out it had passed away. So no matter how hard life is in these job careers, as a wife from both you always get that last hug and kiss before they exit the door, because you never know if they will return. Strong words and think abount it in our shoes...


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 11:12 a.m.

This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Rich. As the sister of a (now retired) police officer, I know how police and firefighters are a family, often forming bonds closer than blood relations. We who are blood, respect those ties. A few years ago, my uncle, a retired fire chief, died at the age of 89. At the end of the funeral service, his casket was hoisted aboard a fire truck that led the procession to the cemetery. We had to pass through two towns and in each one members of the fire department stood at attention and saluted my uncle's casket. Those men and women will have no idea how much it meant to his family that my uncle was remembered like that, even though he had been retired for a long time.


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 8:14 a.m.

As a firefighters' wife and participant in a couple "line of duty" funerals over the past few years, it is important for the community to stop, pause and show gratitude for this type of service. These are people that work among us 24/7, people we know, people who aren't the most well-paid, people who become political pawns...they never know if they will arrive home after their shift. And the importance of such funerals to fellow public safety workers is well-stated in your essay. Thank you for taking the time to explain this important process.