Dallas, TX – Interim Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown said she denied a fallen deputy funeral honors because she did not want it to appear that the department was condoning or glamorizing suicide.
“There are no words that can accurately describe the sadness we are experiencing due to his loss,” Sheriff Brown said at the time.
“We, in public safety, have difficult jobs that come with unique challenges and dangers, coupled with regular life stressors that make it easy for us to become overwhelmed,” she continued. “As law enforcement professionals, we often mask emotion to do our jobs on a day-to-day basis helping people and we forget or ignore that we often need help ourselves.”
His widow, ShaRonda Calderon, had also worked for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office in the past, and said she expected that her husband would receive certain honors after he served nearly two decades as a law enforcement officer, WFAA reported.
“There were a lot of things that I was told should have happened that didn’t happen,” ShaRonda said of Deputy Calderon’s July 5 funeral service.
The department’s protocol dictates the guidelines for officers’ funerals. Full honors are given only to officers who die in the line of duty. But officers who pass away while off-duty are also entitled to certain honors as outlined in the department’s general orders, WFAA reported.
Those honors include an honor guard, a bugler, an officer standing watch over the fallen hero’s casket, and a final radio call broadcasting the officer’s badge number, according to the news outlet.
None of those things occurred after Deputy Calderon’s death – a decision that was made by Sheriff Brown.
“It is the responsibility of the leadership of the department to make decisions that are deemed best for the department,” Sheriff Brown said in a statement to WFAA. “Due to the nature of Deputy Calderon’s death, the sheriff’s department does not want to condone nor appear to glamorize suicide.”
“The message that it’s sending is that we’re not here for you,” ShaRonda told WFAA.
The department did not even provide the folded American flag that was placed on Deputy Calderon’s casket – that was provided by an anonymous donor, WFAA reported.
ShaRonda said she was unaware that Sheriff Brown planned to attend or speak during her husband’s funeral until it occurred, and that much of her message revolved around Deputy Calderon’s manner of death as opposed to the kind of man he was when he was alive.
“If you needed him, he’d be there,” ShaRonda said of her husband, a father of three. “That’s what I fell in love with. If I needed something, he would be there. That’s what makes a perfect police officer.”
Prior to Deputy Calderon’s funeral, the Dallas chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association (NLPOA) sent Sheriff Brown a letter imploring her to “consider modified honors by providing 2-4 honor guard members to accompany the family to the memorial, during the memorial and an escort to his final resting place or something similar to this modified honors plan,” according to a July 1 letter.
“I do not believe it is too much to ask to provide modified honors for a gentleman who sacrificed eighteen years of his life to his department and his community,” the correspondence read. “This act of compassion by you and your commanders would be an immense token of solidarity and support for all those left behind and show your employees how much you care about their health and welfare.”
On Wednesday, the NLPOA issued another letter to Sheriff Brown, this time expressing “absolute dismay” over her decision to withhold honors from Deputy Calderon and his family due to mental illness, WFAA reported.
“It is not the department’s right to question why or how an employee’s death occurred to determine if honors were to be provided,” the NLPOA told the sheriff in the letter.