Board approves honoring police cadet who died during training
OKLAHOMA CITY —
It is a victory for the widow of a man who died just days from finishing the Oklahoma City Police academy. Thursday morning the board that oversees the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial voted to add Kelley Chase's name to the state's memorial.
"I was overjoyed," Chase's widow, Elke Meeus told Fox 25, "It's been a long battle and I was excited, relieved, a little tired; I could suddenly take a breath and feel relieved and happy."
The board originally voted to not add Chase because he was still in the academy and had not yet taken part in a formal commissioning ceremony. Though Oklahoma law allows departments to commission people as police officers for up to six months before those officers ever have to go through a training academy.
Oklahoma City police ruled his death "in the line of duty" and added his name to its memorial after his death in 2012. It took more than a year of research for Meeus to find the document that proved her husband was legally considered a commissioned police officer.
A notarized document signed by Police Chief Bill Citty was given to the board in January, but the members took a month to review Chase's records before finally voting to add him to the memorial. "He was a police officer as of day one 4:09 and they recognized that and I'm relieved," Meeus said.
"It's going to mean a lot for us because Kelley is buried at the Santa Fe National Memorial for war heroes; needless to say that's in New Mexico we don't have the opportunity of being there all the time," Meeus said, "This is a great place for my family, the kids and I, to go remember Kelley. It's symbolic for us, but also symbolic because he is going to be recognized by his peers as a police officer as he was."
Meeus said Police Chief Citty wrote a personal letter to the board urging them to reconsider Chase's name saying he deserved to be recognized on the state memorial.
"Seeing their dad's name engraved, or etched into those walls; knowing that he was somebody who was committed to serving his community and did the right thing his whole lifeI just find it a wonderful recognition."
Chase's name will be officially unveiled during an annual ceremony honoring the service of fallen officers in May.