ARTESIA, N.M. - Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said Navajo Police Sgt. Darrell Curley gave the ultimate sacrifice for the public's safety.
"He gave his life for safety," President Shelly said during the 21st Annual Indian Country Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service May 3 at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
Sgt. Curley died in the line of duty last summer.
Federal, tribal, state, local officials and law enforcement agents, including Acting Assistant Secretary for the Department of Interior Donald Laverdure, were in attendance to commemorate American Indian officers who lost their lives in the line duty.
"The loss of this admirable police sergeant saddened the Navajo Nation," President Shelly said. "I was shocked," he added as he recalled receiving the news of Curley's death.
Last year on June 25, Sgt. Curley responded to a domestic dispute between two brothers in Kaibito, Ariz. After Sgt. Curley and another officer apprehended the two brothers, a third person started firing shots at the officers.
Sgt. Curley was shot and later died at a hospital in Page, Ariz.
President Shelly commended Sgt. Curley's service to the Navajo Police.
"Sgt. Curley did what every peace officer does day in and day out, he put his safety second to ours," President Shelly said during a seven-minute speech.
According the Division of Public Safety, Sgt. Curley was recruited in February 1986, and later transferred to the Tuba City District and promoted to police sergeant in 2003. His many achievements included certificates for 20 years of service, commitment and dedication; outstanding contribution toward the recovery efforts from the Navajo Nation, Federal Emergency Management Services (EMS) and the Arizona Department of EMS; and commended by the Chinle Police District for his valued service and dedication.
"We have less than 300 officers patrolling 27,000 square miles and they are ensuring the safety of nearly 170,000 lives in three states," President Shelly said.
President Shelly added that Navajo officers "travel thousands of miles and work hundreds of hours" and wanted federal officials to know the conditions of Navajo police work.
He asked the dozen Navajo police officers in attendance to stand and be recognized.
"Look at them, they are stressed. I want the officials from the Department of Interior to know that and also from the BIA to know that. We're the size of West Virginia," Shelly said.
"How many more of our officers will get hurt before we realize we can help?" Shelly asked.
President Shelly also called upon the federal government to increase funding for law enforcement.
Since 1979, seven Navajo police officers have lost their lives while on duty.