Sheriff, Businessman and Architect Team Together to Create “Ride the Thin Blue Line” Memorial
Dallas County Sheriff Chad Leonard grew up in Spencer Iowa, where he joined the U.S. Marine Corps after his high school graduation. It was during his service with the Marines Corps that he learned firsthand the importance of honoring his fellow servicemen and women who had lost their lives while serving their country. He was elected sheriff in 2006 after many years in law enforcement.
In 2016 five law enforcement officers were killed statewide, though each death held a Dallas County connection. After attending all five of the memorial services Sheriff Leonard felt compelled to honor Iowa’s fallen officers with a dynamic memorial located in Dallas County. His vision is the “Ride The Thin Blue Line,” an illuminated memorial that will be located along the Racoon River Trail behind the new Dallas County Sheriff offices and jail. The journey towards the “Ride The Thin Blue Line” is just beginning, and everyone is invited to participate in the creation of this historic local landmark. You can also contribute by leaving your comments below.
“Two Des Moines police officers were killed in our county by a drunk driver, another West Des Moines Police Officer was killed in a traffic accident on his motorcycle after attending a hearing in our county courthouse,” recalls Sheriff Leonard, who was on the scene at both accidents. “We also had two officers ambushed and killed by a gunman in Polk County, the next county to the east. The gunman was located and surrendered in our county to a couple deputies and myself. As well as the other approximate 200 Iowa officers who have died while serving our communities in the state.”
Sheriff Leonard found an immediate ally in Scott Politte, owner of Stivers Ford Lincoln, who’s had a long relationship with Sheriff Leonard on numerous occasions. Stivers Ford Lincoln has been the main supplier of Iowa Ford police interceptors for over a decade. Because of this, Stivers Ford Lincoln has established significant personal connections with law enforcement throughout the state. Politte has supported various efforts and agreed to sponsor the memorial to lead the fundraising operation.
Sheriff Leonard notes there is already a memorial in Des Moines, however the Ride The Thin Blue Line will be educational, offering a place of solitude for loved ones, family, and those who want to give back their love and respect to Iowa’s first responders. Our memorial will both look different and appeal to a different demographic, as this memorial will be located adjacent to the very popular 72-mile Racoon River Valley Bike Trail. The Racoon Trail annually hosts thousands of riders throughout the year. The trail transects a 40-acre county-owned parcel that will also serve as the site of the new Sheriff Headquarters and Dallas County Jail.
“We’ll capture a huge audience because we’ll have people from all over the country who come to ride the trail, a way to educate an entirely different group of people about the selfless acts of Iowa law enforcement on a daily basis.” Sheriff Leonard explains. “I think it is great to have a traditional memorial at the Capital but you can’t pay tribute enough. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing memorials throughout the state.”
Scott Politte agrees, “They perform a mostly thankless duty, fraught with difficulty and danger on a daily basis. They do this for the overall betterment and enjoyment of those who live or pass through their communities. They remove the “problems” before they become problems. I think it is hard for people to understand that creating environments devoid of any general danger is an ongoing concern that requires much effort and vigilance. It also requires skilled people with a great desire to help others.”
The Ride The Thin Blue Line Memorial will offer another community service, a gathering hub for friends, family members and the community to reflect upon the ultimate sacrifice in the call of duty. Sheriff Leonard recently joined many of his colleagues in the offices of architect Jerry Purdy – owner of Design Alliance in Waukee, IA, who will design and construct the memorial. He asked each of them how they would like to be remembered should tragedy befall them, this question in and of itself an extraordinary window into the professional lives of these men and women.
Sheriff Leonard believes the best tribute will have an intriguing and lasting effect on those who experience the Ride The Thin Blue Line. “At the end of the day, when we unveil this memorial, we want people to return to the Ride The Thin Blue Line with the same enthusiasm that they visit the popular High Trestle Bridge Trail. I envision two archways with a blue set of lights covering all 1,340 feet of the trail that travels through our property. This blue wall of the lights bursting out of the trees will also raise the curiosity of those traveling by so that they turn around to check it out. I want the wow factor.”
“Ride The Thin Blue Line Memorial will hopefully create a sense of community, mutual respect, and common ground for Iowans,” adds Scott Politte, owner of Stivers Ford Lincoln, “We are all participants in our community, and we all have an obligation to maintain a safe and cooperative environment.”
Visit the Dallas County Sheriff website to learn how to contribute to and participate in the creation of the exciting and important Ride The Thin Blue Line Memorial.