PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - It's been a deadly year for cops around the country, and specifically here in Florida. During National Police Week, members of law enforcement are gathering to remember those killed protecting our streets.
Officers put their lives on the line every single day, some making the ultimate sacrifice to serve and protect.
Tuesday night, Charlotte County law enforcement gathered to remember those they've lost like Darla Lathrem, a correctional officer killed in 2003.
"Everyday we know she's at Charlotte Correctional in spirit, walking with us," Col. Derik Snider said.
It's an annual tribute, but this one was particularly difficult. "It's just really alarming times and I hope the community just stays behind law enforcement," Sheriff Bill Cameron said.
Nationwide, officer fatalities increased 18% from 2009-2010, and death by gunfire rose 57%. According to the FBI, 56 officers in the U.S. were killed due to criminal actions last year. In 2009, 48 were slain, and in the previous year, 41.
Preliminary data for January through April 2011 shows 26 officers were killed by assault. That's 10 more than the same time last year.
"There's a lot more nervous police officers across the state of Florida and across the country and this hits home more," Punta Gorda Police Chief Butch Arenal said. "We are lot more vigilant and try that much more to remember our own and we want the public to remember our own."
It's an especially touching service for those who wore the badge many years ago. "It's not something we do for glory or as a second thought, it kind of comes natural," former officer Leal Swindlehurst said. "You're kind of born with it, and there's a few of us that have it, so that's the chosen path."
Wednesday morning, the Lee County Sheriff's Office will host its annual service honoring the county's fallen officers. That ceremony will be held outside the Sheriff's Office Headquarters on Six Mile Cypress at 9 a.m.