Local project is moving tribute to fallen officers
Thin Blue Line vehicle to travel nation
by Laura Adelmann
After her mother whispered in her ear, the small blonde girl stopped excitedly pointing at the police car in the parade.
Appearing stunned among the people with their hands and hats over their hearts, she held an American flag in her left hand and gave a solemn wave to Thin Blue Line Memorial Vehicle driver Leonard Schrader of Castle Rock.
“I waved back,” said the former police reserve officer, “but here’s this 50-year-old man driving this car, crying his eyes out.”
The Thin Blue Line Memorial Vehicle, refurbished in Schrader’s shop near Farmington last year, commemorates the sacrifice of a life given for others.
Across the Crown Victoria’s trunk is a list of 261 Minnesota officers killed in the line of duty.
Included are five law enforcement officials who served in Dakota County: deputies Luther Klug and Rudolph Fischer; Eagan police investigator Louis Jeska; South St. Paul police officer Leo Pavlak; and Hastings police officer Albert Jacobson.
Created in 2011, the moving legacy is scheduled to appear at local and national events this year, including in Washington, D.C.
The vehicle was once driven by North St. Paul police officer Richard Crittenden Sr., who was shot and killed Sept. 7, 2009, while protecting a woman and her daughter from a repeat violent offender.
Purchased at auction by Crittenden’s widow, Christine, the squad has been painted and once again equipped with sirens and lights.
Graphics of a bald eagle in flight, riding wings of stars and stripes, are displayed on both sides of the vehicle, and another more detailed eagle design is planned to be displayed across its hood.
Two flags, mounted in special holders, are carried in the vehicle’s front end during events.
A memorial to Crittenden appears on each side with his name and photo.
Driving the vehicle, said Schrader, is a “privilege” and a way to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Schrader, owner of a police equipment installation business near Farmington, said “countless” hours have been put into assembling and maintaining the memorial vehicle.
Equipped with a light bar, siren, speakers and public address system for parades, the vehicle is scheduled to appear in Lakeville’s Pan-O-Prog parade and in Hastings this summer.
Organizers plan for the vehicle to appear in parades at Burnsville’s Fire Muster, Farmington’s Dew Days and Rosemount’s Leprechaun Days, said retired Northfield police Capt. Roger Schroeder, another of the memorial’s organizers.
On May 15, the vehicle will appear in Washington, D.C., for Peace Officers Memorial Day, an annual event during Police Week to honor America’s fallen officers and the families left behind.
Along the way, the Thin Blue Line Memorial Vehicle will appear at memorial events in Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.
“We’re looking for small-town America events,” Schroeder said.
Minnesota officers’ funerals are the top priority for use of the vehicle, available at the family’s request, Schrader said.
“If we’re requested by a family, we’ll be there,” he said. “It is truly, truly an honor to drive this car anywhere we go, and to tell people of the daily sacrifice that Minnesota law enforcement makes.”
For more information and to request a visit, go to www.tblmemorialvehicle.com.
Laura Adelmann is at email@example.com or facebook.com/sunthisweek.