Every 58 hours, somewhere in America, a law enforcement officer dies in service to others…and a family mourns their loss.
“Many in the law enforcement and military professions die protecting the freedoms of this nation…their battlefields are just different.”
Robert Dent – Oregon State Police (Ret.)
Remembering / One mans dedication to fallen officers’ survivors
By DOUG BATES
(USA – BEND, OR) When a law enforcement officer anywhere is killed in the line of duty, Bob Dent mourns along with his fellow officers, then does something about it.
A tragedy in 1992 — the fatal shooting of Dent’s friend and colleague, a young Oregon State Police trooper named Bret Clodfelter – set in motion a chain of events that stunned Pacific Northwest law enforcement. But what is just as tragic and troubling to Dent is the death of Clodfelter’s wife, René, who took her own life one year after her husband was murdered in the line of duty. They had been married just 33 days when Bret was killed, Dent recalls. Sadly, there were two young children left behind from a previous marriage.
Dent, now honorably retired from the Oregon State Police in Bend, Oregon has seen his share of friends fall to the bullets and knives of criminals and has long been involved in providing emotional support to the families of law enforcement officers killed while serving in harm’s way. It was the Clodfelter case, however, that galvanized his commitment and compelled him to dedicating his private life to this cause by using his private funds to form an I.R.S. approved non-profit foundation in 1995 that raises money to help people such as René’ Clodfelter with the grieving process.
His philanthropic efforts have brought national awards, television and radio appearances, articles by national and international magazines with commendations from former President George H. W. Bush and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to name a few. However, Dent is quick to give the credit to kind individuals who support him and the cause. He handles all correspondence himself, keeping administrative costs very low.
Dent recalled that on the night of September 30, 1992 Trooper Clodfelter died in his patrol car after being shot in the head by one of three men riding in the back seat. The young trooper had offered to drive two passengers of the vehicle to their residence after arresting the driver for Driving While Intoxicated. He had handcuffed the driver and placed him in the back seat of his patrol car with his cohorts. He radioed dispatch and advised of the arrest and proposed transport.
Subsequently, police radio dispatchers were unable to raise Trooper Clodfelter on the radio, so officers were sent to his last known location to find him. They found his patrol car four blocks from the original traffic stop and arrest. All three suspects were gone and Trooper Clodfelter was found slumped in the driver’s seat. He had been shot four times in the back of the head. A massive manhunt was launched to locate and capture the three suspects. (Trooper Clodfelter served with the Oregon State Police for 8 years and was highly respected).
After a three day intensive manhunt, the killer was found hiding in a barn not far from the murder scene. The shooter, Francisco Manzo-Hernandez (an illegal immigrant) had a long violent history of assault and drug abuse and was wanted on seven outstanding arrest warrants ranging from Manufacturing of Methamphetamine to Auto Theft.
At Hernandez’s trial the jury found him guilty of the execution style murder of Trooper Clodfelter. During the penalty phase of the trial, one juror refused to vote for the death penalty so the killer was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In Oregon, the law states all jurors must agree on the death sentence before it can be imposed.
Hernandez was eventually transferred to a Texas prison where he subsequently escaped with another convicted murderer and illegal immigrant only known as Ruiz. Both were eventually caught, and Hernandez was sent back to Oregon to serve his sentence. (Read just how close Hernandez and Ruiz were to escaping to freedom…and the determined officer who caught them.)
“The survivors of a fallen officer are an important part of the law enforcement family, Dent said, but after the funeral, after the honor guard, after the outpouring of support, some experience loneliness, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. Even with the support from family, the law enforcement community and professional health care providers…despair can set in.”
The general public often forgets that the survivors must deal with the onslaught of media coverage, loss of privacy, and constant reminder of the crime and the suspect that took their loved one from them. Furthermore, if the suspect pleads not guilty, the survivors must endure the added stress and frustration of dealing with a lengthy legal process from arrest through trial, appeals, and sentencing and parole hearings. These proceedings can last for decades which leave these families with constant emotional upheaval, anxiety, and pain. The wound cannot heal when it is constantly reopened making recovery more difficult for the families who have suffered and given so much. It is important we continue to recognize that fact. These families should receive help in surviving a tragic time in their lives. Society owes them better.”
To help out, Dent established the Bend, Oregon based Constable Public Safety Memorial Foundation, Inc. Since 1995, the small foundation has been raising funds to assist families with the grieving and healing process. Contributions help supplement costs for survivors’ air travel expenses to attend the: National Police Week; Candlelight Vigil Services; Conference; Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) programs for survivors (and children). and the memorial service held at National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial,. These events are held during National Police Week in Washington D.C. in May of each year.
In 1997, Dent arranged an Oregon appearance by Vincent Bugliosi, the famed author and former Los Angeles prosecutor. Bugliosi wrote the best-selling book “Helter Skelter,” recounting his successful prosecution of the Charles Manson case, and several other true-crime books including the best-seller, “Outrage,” regarded by critics as the best book published on the O.J. Simpson murder case.
Bugliosi, moved by Dent’s work, agreed to waive his speaking fee with all the proceeds going to the foundation. Dent arranged for Bugliosi’s airfare to Bend to be paid by criminals convicted of assaulting police officers, resisting arrest or eluding police officers, through an arrangement with the late Dennis Maloney, former Director of the Deschutes County Community Justice Department. Bugliosi has since been appointed an honorary board member of the foundation.
Dent met Bugliosi at a law enforcement conference several years before the fundraiser and Bugliosi took an interest in the foundation’s work. The two became friends but it was the cause that brought Bugliosi to Bend, Dent says.
The seeds of Dent’s personal mission probably were planted in 1976 when a Pendleton, Oregon, police officer was stabbed to death by a motorist he stopped to help. The officer left behind a wife and five children. Dent, then stationed in Pendleton, helped pass the hat for the family and other families that followed.
Since the creation of the foundation in 1995, it has provided assistance to several surviving families in Oregon, Arizona, Washington, Idaho, California, Texas, Nebraska, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Florida, and North Carolina. Read about the Sanchez families’ trip.
Ironically, within 45 days of the Bugliosi fundraiser, three of Dent’s fellow Troopers were killed in the line of duty. Sgt. Jim Rector and Trooper Scott Lyons were killed in a tragic collision while responding to help another trooper who was investigating an accident involving an intoxicated driver. Thirty days later Sgt. Richard Schuening was killed from an explosion while trying to dispose of some illegal explosives. Dent used part of the $16,000 raised from the Bugliosi fundraiser to help these and other families.
Dent tells of heartwarming stories about the generosity of others such as a Bend woman who heard about the foundation and the Bugliosi fundraiser. She sent all she could afford — $15. After Dent and his wife invited her over one evening to thank her, the woman went door-to-door for a week raising over $1,100. Still she asked for nothing. Then there’s the story of the elderly widowed woman who sent the foundation $100 every month from her Social Security check. “She told me her husband and brother had passed on,” Dent says, “and her contributions make her feel worthwhile, to be able to help these families.”
Dent did not stop with just police families to help; with support from Oregon State Representative Ben Westlund, HB2391 “Fallen Officer’s Bill” (later renamed “Public Safety Memorial Law“) was signed into law in 1999 by then Governor John Kitzhaber after winning unanimous approval from the House and Senate. The law gives help to families of other public safety professionals like firefighters; correctional and juvenile officers; and parole and probation personnel, in addition to police officers. The law made convicted criminals and those that put officers at risk pay an additional assessment to help the families of slain or incapacitated public safety officers. The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training administers the program that aid the surviving families.
Dent said, ” We are making criminals and those who violate the law more responsible for their illegal acts. They should bear the cost of this fund, not the law abiding taxpayer.” The genesis of the fund is not just living expense money. It’s scholarships for the children. It’s sending the spouse back to school, if he or she wants to go, it’s for funeral expenses, it’s for health insurance, it’s therapy and meetings with other survivors. Included in the law is a provision that pays for a year of mortgage payments on the family’s house which temporarily lifts a large financial burden from a grieving spouse trying to cope with a tragic loss.”
The intense 64-year-old clearly enjoys the lectern — an aptitude that shows up in training videos he has produced — and you get the feeling that in another life he might have made a good classroom teacher. Inevitably, in today’s cynical world, the time-consuming behind-the-scenes efforts of someone like Dent cause eyebrows to raise. What’s the motivation here? It’s clearly a simple one, found in the man’s own terse explanation:
“I cannot forget the looks, the tears on the faces of the innocent young women with children, grieving a lost husband and father suddenly taken, older couples who have unfortunately outlived their son or daughter, brothers, sisters or the officer who witnessed a partner fall. And it is very sad. I’ve just been to too many funerals.”
We believe our small foundation and the legislation passed has made a difference in helping ease the pain and suffering of the surviving families while offering them hope. Nothing equals the smiles and hugs from the families we’ve helped. The reward comes from the twinkle in the eye and the smile on the face when you know you’ve touched a grieving heart…it is just the right thing to do,” Dent said.
Bates is the Editorial Director for the Oregonian newspaper (article reprint permitted with attribution)
Message from founder Robert Dent
“Far too many law enforcement officers and members of our military have their lives taken from them far too soon upholding their profession’s oath. They have left, and will continue to leave behind a legacy of grieving relatives, friends and co-workers. Sadly, the survivors are also innocent victims. They too have sacrificed much…especially the kids with their loss of childhood innocence.”
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C., with regard to the law enforcement profession in America:
- A law enforcement officer is killed in the line duty every 58 hours
- On average 150 officers are killed yearly (over 20.000 killed since records have been kept)
- More than 58,000 officers are assaulted every year
Since the first recorded police death in 1791, there are currently 20,267 names engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The list continues to grow and so does the number of spouses and children left behind to endure.
As mentioned in the article above, one of those statistics noted was friend and fellow co-worker Oregon State Trooper Bret Clodfelter, who was shot 4 times in the back of the head by a wanted fugitive. His murder and subsequent suicide of his wife was the impetus for forming the Constable Public Safety Memorial Foundation and the subsequent passage of the fallen officer’s law.
A few years ago, the foundation branched out into an endeavor to raise additional funds, which not only helped surviving law enforcement families as previously noted, but also support our military wounded and their families via the Wounded Warriors Project.
We filmed a number of WW II veteran friends, including a Medal of Honor recipient, who were willing to share their interesting wartime stories to help raise funds through the production of DVD documentaries. All of them were involved in iconic and historic battles of which they were fortunate to survive such as Iwo Jima, Omaha Beach, Battle of the Bulge, Anzio and others. They were more than happy to help with the project.
The Board agreed that 10% of any proceeds be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project . The funds help supplement airline travel costs for needy military spouses who go to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to visit their critically wounded loved one.
The first video produced tells the story about a young 18 year old Marine named Lorin Myring who was in the first wave to land on Iwo Jima. He was part of the 5th Marine Division, who went ashore on Red Beach 2. It was February 19, 1945. Myring was a cryptographer who was tasked to fight with his friend Willie Nota, a Navaho Code Talker. During the bloody battle Nota was killed right in front of Myring by a Japanese mortar. The bloody 36 day battle claimed over 6,000 Marines and more than 20,000 Japanese soldiers. This is the first of 5 WW II documentaries to be produced by Dent.
For a $20 donation, we will ship to you this 52 min DVD documentary that contains rare film footage and never before photographs.
On October 10, 2014 the long awaited 2-hour biographical documentary about WW II Medal of Honor recipient Robert Maxwell was released by the Constable Public Safety Memorial Foundation, Inc., according to the foundation’s President, Robert Dent.
Maxwell who served in the U.S. Army, 3rd BN, Headquarter Co. 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division was a Technician 5th Grade who was tasked as one of the battalion’s communications “wiremen”. He is the only living Medal of Honor recipient from Oregon. He is the most senior of all recipients in the nation.
During his military career he served overseas under Generals George S. Patton Jr., Lucian Truscott and Mark Clark and participated in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Southern, France.
During the beach landing at the Battle of Anzio in Italy, his unit sustained heavy artillery shelling which resulted in Maxwell being seriously wounded by shrapnel from a German 88. He was evacuated to a Naples hospital where for two months, recuperated from his wounds. He returned to his unit and participated in combat operations during the Invasion of Southern France known as ‘Operation Dragoon’.
It was in the early morning hours of September 7, 1944 near Besançon, France he performed an act of heroism that saved the lives of three other Army soldiers, including his Battalion Commander, Col Lloyd Ramsey. During heavy combat he dropped himself upon a German hand grenade that landed at his feet. He survived the blast and was transported to a Naples, Italy hospital for treatment of serious wounds. He was subsequently shipped stateside for further treatment at a Colorado Springs, Colorado hospital. He spent a total of 9 months in various hospitals recovering from his wounds and was presented with the Medal of Honor on April 6th, 1945. Shortly, after being released from the hospital but still in rehabilitation, he was tasked to go on tour with another Medal of Honor recipient to raise money for the war effort.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Mr. Maxwell has been the recipient of the:
- French Legion of Honor Medal (France’s Highest Medal for Valor)
- French Croix De Guerre (similar to our Distinguished Service Cross)
- French Liberation Medal
- Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster
- Bronze Star
- Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster
- Combat Infantryman’s Badge
- European-African-Mideast Campaign Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- WW II Victory Medal
- Good Conduct Medal
After the war Maxwell went on to a successful career in teaching automobile mechanics and honored as one of America’s 5000 Outstanding Educators. He went on to establish the Medal of Honor Scholarship at Boise, Idaho Bible College and a number of other scholarships.
Maxwell lives in Bend, Oregon with his wife Beatrice and remains active in military, veteran, and law enforcement affairs. He is currently a Board member of the Constable Public Safety Memorial Foundation, Inc., and Bend Oregon Heroes Foundation.
For a $20 donation, we will ship to you this 2 hour and 6 minute DVD documentary that contains rare combat film footage and photographs.
Following are some interesting WW II statistics:
Profile of US Servicemen and women (1941-1945)
- 38.8% (6,332,000) of U.S. servicemen and all servicewomen were volunteers
- 61.2% (11,535,000) were draftees
- Average duration of service: 33 months
- Overseas service: 73% served overseas, with an average of 16 months abroad
- Average base pay: enlisted—$71.33 per month; officer—$203.50 per month
- Total of number of all Armed Forces who served: 12,209,238
- Total Killed: 407,316
- Total Wounded: 671,278 Source: The National WWII Museum
A Closing Thought…
The Constable Public Safety Memorial Foundation’s Board sincerely believes one of the most important things we can do to help a grieving surviving family is to offer them hope. We do that by personally remembering them and the tremendous sacrifice they and their loved one have made for this nation.
We most frequently contact and respectfully request a representative from the fallen officer’s agency to hand deliver the family a sympathy letter, a check to help offset airline travel cost to attend the National Police Survivors’ Conference and National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, and a personalized “Law Enforcement Bible”. The latter specifically designed for the law enforcement family that offers words of encouragement with emphasis on the extraordinary power of prayer, faith, …and hope.
It is also therapeutic for the family to see their loved one’s name permanently engraved upon the granite “Wall of Honor” in Washington D.C. and hear their name called out in remembrance of a life spent dedicated in service to others. If we inspire, give strength, and instill hope to those grieving, then we have accomplished our mission.
In closing, my wife Kathy and I would like to hear from you. We kindly ask that you take a moment to write us. Hearing from people who support what we and the Board are trying to accomplish makes our efforts rewarding and worthwhile.
Robert L. Dent
Founder and President
“Greater love than this no man hath than that he lay down his life for his friend.” John 15:13
“God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
If you would like to make a donation, no matter how small, to help other surviving families and support our military wounded, contributions may be made online at this site or sent to the:Constable Public Safety Memorial Foundation, Inc. 20615 Woodside Court Bend, Oregon 97702 Please open your heart and give to those who gave the most. Thank you…
“Many in the law enforcement and military professions die protecting the freedoms of this nation…Death a frequent visitor to their battlefields.”
Please visit these other interesting sites:
Brenda Seger’s “Police Wives”
“Thousands of children are reported missing every year in the United States. Any parent, who has experienced the sudden fear and panic of losing the sight of their child for only a few seconds, will quickly see the value of these tags, especially if those seconds turn into minutes or hours. This simple and effective device will help expedite the safe return of your loved one…when seconds count. I highly recommend that every parent concerned about child safety, purchase these unique and inexpensive tags.”
Robert L. Dent
Oregon State Police (Ret.)
Please link this memorial site www.ConstableFoundation.org to your homepage.
Contributions can be made online or sent to the Constable Public Safety Memorial Foundation, 20615 Woodside Court, Bend, Oregon 97702
(It is an approved I.R.S. 501 (c3) non-profit and receives no government funding).
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