DALLAS, TX — A Dallas County Sheriff’s deputy who took his own life last month was denied honors at his funeral last week for reasons one organization calls “hypocritical and unethical.”
Homero Calderon, an 18-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, died Friday, June 28, by suicide, the sheriff’s department announced on Facebook. Calderon worked in the Dallas County Jail before being transferred as an investigator to the Sheriff’s Department Warrant Execution Section.
After his death, Interim County Sheriff Marian Brown issued a statement in which she offered condolences and called him “…an integral part of our law enforcement team and a member of our family at-large.”
But when it came to Calderon’s funeral, Brown’s sentiments seemed to have changed. The funeral, WFAA reported, was Brown’s decision.
The station reported that Calderon’s service would be performed without full honors because he did not die in the line of duty — his family expected that. But what they were surprised to find was that he was not even given the honors standard for deputies who die while off-duty, which include an officer stationed by the casket, an honor guard, a bugler and a ceremonial final call in which the deputy’s badge numbers are broadcast over the radio.
“There were a lot of things that I was told should have happened that didn’t happen,” his wife, ShaRonda Calderon, told WFAA.
Interim sheriff Marian Brown told WFAA in a statement that the department chose not to give Calderon the standard honors because of his manner of death — suicide.
“Absent that, it is the responsibility of the leadership of the department to make decisions that are deemed best for the department,” the statement to the station read. “Due to the nature of Deputy Calderon’s death, the sheriff’s department does not want to condone nor appear to glamorize suicide.”
Brown’s statement drew ire from the National Latino Peace Officers Association. Organization president Cindy M. Rodriguez first addressed the issue in a July 1 open letter shared to Facebook.
“I implore you 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,” Rodriguez wrote, in part. (Subscribe to your local Texas Patch for breaking news alerts and daily newsletters.)
She went on to reason with Brown, recommending instead that Calderon be given modified honors.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
After Calderon’s honors were denied at his funeral, the organization wrote to Brown again, this time taking a different tone. Mike Ramirez President, president of Dallas chapter of NLPOA, shared a lengthy letter condemning the department’s handling of the funeral.
“It is not the departments (sic) right to question why or how an employee’s death occurred to determine if honors were to be provided,” Ramirez wrote, in part. “We could understand and agree not to honor an employee’s death if caused as a result of criminal activity, but tragically it was not, it was caused by a mental illness….”
Ramirez continued, admonishing Brown’s approach to Calderon’s death and making clear that the Dallas chapter of the NLPOA does not support her administration.
“General orders are established policies that are to be followed by every employee and you are not exempt. Employees who violate these general orders are subject to discipline and it would be hypocritical and unethical for you to be held to a different standard of professionalism that you expect your subordinates to follow,” he wrote. “…Based on your demonstrated behavior, lack of respect and accountability the NLPOA does not support you.
Raul Reyna, a sheriff spokesman, told Patch the county provides an employee assistance program that employees may call at any time for mental health assistance. The department also provides a Chaplain Unit, lead by Paul Garcia, an instructor in suicide prevention.
The chaplain unit is available at any time for sheriff’s office employees who wish to discuss “any subject or life event they may be experiencing,” Reyna wrote.
The department did not respond immediately to a request regarding the NLPOA’s July 11 letter.
Image via Dallas County Sheriff’s Office
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