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Lives on the Line

news3As memorials roll out for fallen SCPD officers, law enforcement are reminded of the daily risk of their jobs

The loss of two Santa Cruz police officers last week—a first in the department's 150-year history—has left the community feeling broken and the police department reeling. But local law enforcement says the fact that their lives are on the line is something they live with everyday.

“When you get this news, it's shocking and upsetting, and when you get in this line of work you know it's a possibility,” says Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputy April Skalland.

Following the murders of Detective Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler by gunman Jeremy Goulet on Tuesday, Feb. 26, the County Sheriff's Office and the Santa Cruz California Highway Patrol took over the SCPD's patrol for two days, giving them the opportunity to grieve and make arrangements for the fallen officers' families. Covering for the department, which is emergency protocol, reflects the familial nature between law enforcement departments, says Skalland.

“It doesn't matter if you wear blue, or green and tan,” she says, referring to the colors of the Sheriff's Office and the SCPD's uniforms. “It's a huge family. We stepped in because that's the right thing to do. That's just the bond you have in the law enforcement community.”

When any department loses an officer, Skalland says all law enforcement agencies share the loss together. She references the recent rampage that former Los Angeles Police Department officer Christopher Dorner went on in Southern California that targeted police officers.

news3-3“We all lived that,” Skalland says.

On Friday, March 1, at 7 a.m., when the SCPD resumed their duties policing the city, Sheriff's Office personnel were outside unexpectedly waiting for Santa Cruz police officers, at attention, saluting—a symbol of their solidarity, respect and honor for the lost officers. 

The deaths of Butler and Baker is a reminder that a job in law enforcement can be unpredictable and even deadly, but Skalland says that knowledge is something that never entirely leaves any officers' mind.

“Going into law enforcement is a lifestyle,” she says. “And it's something that other people won't entirely understand unless they share it. I think officers think about it every single day. You're always watching your back, seeing what's going on, even when you're off duty. It's the way you live your life.”

Attending fellow officers' funerals is a chilling reminder of this reality, and something Skalland says she's done, sadly, many times. She, along with people from all other law enforcement agencies in the county and many from across the state, will be present at Baker and Butler's memorial, which takes place today, Thursday, March 1 at noon at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

“You go because they would do the same thing if it was you or your family,” she says. “It's that brother and sisterhood.”

However, due to the large number of members from the law enforcement community expected to attend, the memorial for Butler and Baker was moved from Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz to HP Pavilion in San Jose. This has been a source of contention for some community members who won't be able to make it over the hill, and for those who feel it should be a local service.

More than 5,000 law enforcement agents and firefighters from all over the state are expected to attend, and it was very important to the families of the fallen officers that everyone be able to gather together under the same roof, says Mayor Hilary Bryant. That ruled out any local facility. “It was extremely important that we honor the families' wishes,” she says.

Dividing attendees up in different venues, as was previously planned, would require a lot of coordination and would stray from the original purpose, says Scott Collins, assistant to the city manager. There will still be gatherings in multiple venues, however: those who cannot make it to San Jose will be able to view a telecast of the services at Kaiser Permanente Arena and the Del Mar Theater starting at 11 a.m. Collins tells GT that METRO bus vouchers are available for people who lack transportation to San Jose. 

Collins says the city understands that it created some inconveniences for the community, but he believes many will be able to make the 38-mile trip from Santa Cruz to the HP Pavilion. He notes that the number of miles—38—is also the total number of years that Baker and Butler served with the SCPD.

He believes there is potential for a second, local ceremony to help the community grapple with the tragedy, though there were no plans set in stone as of press time.

Bryant says she understands the frustration about the out-of-town memorial, but interprets it as a sign of the community's unity with and compassion for the SCPD, which resonates positively with her.

“It comes from a good place,” she says “Everyone wants to grieve together.” 


At the request of Santa Cruz's congressman, Sam Farr, the United States House of Representatives held a moment of silence in honor of Detective Sgt. Loran 'Butch' Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler on Wednesday, March 6.

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