Bond of the Badge
By Reggie Ellis
visalia – The bonds formed by fellow officers of the law are forged in fire, hardened by pressure and shaped by time. It is a bond that endures through transfers, injuries, other careers and retirements that can only be broken by death, which tragically is often the case.
Just over a year ago, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department lost two more from its brotherhood of the badge. Pilot James Chavez and Deputy Scott Ballantyne were killed on Feb. 10, 2016 when the surveillance plane Sheriff One crashed near Lake Success. The crash happened too close to the annual Tulare County Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony, held on the first Wednesday in May, to add their names to the memorial at the corner of Woodland Street and Burrell Avenue in Visalia. So last week, Ballantyne and Chavez’s names were added to the monument. Ballantyne’s name was added to the list of 25 deputies, officers, marshals, constables and even a park ranger dating back to 1889. While not a sworn peace officer, Chavez was still part of what emcee Sheriff Mike Boudreaux called the “Sheriff’s Department family” and his name was added to two benches facing the monument.
“We see stories in the news about how communities have lost trust in law enforcement,” Boudreaux said. “And while they may make headlines, that’s not the heart of what our country believes.”
Boudreaux said men and women like Chavez and Ballantyne don their uniforms every day just to serve their community and protect them from those who would do them harm.
“I want to thank you all for being here,” Sheriff Boudreaux told the hundreds in attendance. “We have to remember so we never forget the importance of the names on this wall.”
Keynote speaker Ashley Ritchie said she can relate to the close working relationship that law enforcement experience. The former KMPH news anchor and Visalia native said similar to Chavez and Ballantyne, detectives working a case, or partners on a beat, reporters and cameramen share a bond as they often spend more time together than with their own families.
“Chavez and Ballentyne were two people brought together by their passion of flying,” Ritchie said. “One family had to create a life without a father and a husband. Another mother has to live on without a son.”
In 2016, Ritchie announced she would not return to the anchor desk after having her third son but has since come back to fill-in when needed as well as work on special projects. But the 12-year news veteran continues to deal with the long hours of another partnership, her marriage to a firefighter. She said when her husband leaves for work each day, she turns her back and says the same five words to him as he walks out the door.
“If I watch him leave it might be the last time I see him. But if I don’t see him, that it can’t be the last time and he’s more likely to come home. As ridiculous as this sounds, it is a ritual like many other families have.”