Last year, on June 24, at 8:07 PM, Officer Celena Hollis was working at the city’s Jazz in the Park event. Most of you know the story. Celena, and several other officers, answered a call about a disturbance in the parking lot near where the jazz concerts are held. As she approached a large group of people involved in the disturbance, she was fatally shot.
Other Denver Police Officers were able to immediately locate and arrest Rollen Oliver, who recently pled guilty to the murder.
Celena left a close-knit loving family, including her then twelve-year-old daughter, Amyre, behind.
This week, there will be numerous events to remember Celena and the sacrifice she and her family made. On Thursday, the Daniel’s Fund will dedicate a memorial garden in honor of Celena. Sunday, at Jazz in the Park, there will be a community tribute and then a private ceremony at the District 2 station where Celena was assigned.
The most difficult aspect of my forty years in law enforcement has been the loss of fellow officers. It is heart-wrenching and senseless; there is an emptiness that does not go away.
But I have also learned that the loss of an officer is not just felt inside the police department. In fact, no matter how much we pride ourselves on being a “family” within the police department, we lose out when we don’t recognize that there is a greater extended family in our community.
Last year, after Celena died, there was an incredible outpouring of support. Individuals, businesses, and organizations donated to help the Hollis family. One company installed an air-conditioner at the family’s home due to the heat from the large gathering of supporters at their home. And then there were the emails, and cards, and messages left – perhaps as valuable as any gift. Officers learned that their grief was shared and that they were respected and appreciated by the community they protected.
I often say that the police are the community and that the community are the police. We are one. I hope that you take a minute to remember Celena and the Hollis family this week. And if you see an officer in your travels, just take a moment to say ‘thanks’. I promise you that it matters.