By Paul B. Murray
A total of 162 officers died in the line of duty last year, 10 in the State of Georgia. Lt. Cliff Rouse, of the Dougherty County Police Department was one of them.
In order to honor this slain officer, a committee was formed from county employees, which included law enforcement and EMT, with Wes Shubert as the chairman. It took months of preparations, gathering sponsors and donations which resulted in a Memorial Run fund raiser for the Rouse family, which took place on Saturday, March 26, in Albany.
For the entire week before the event, the weather appeared to cooperate, even for the forecast for that day. But, Mother Nature is unpredictable and the day turned out to be a forecast of severe thunderstorms and tornado watches for the afternoon.
Nevertheless, hundreds of motorcycles came from all over the Georgia, as well as Florida and Alabama, to honor the slain officer. Wagner’s BBQ and Chick-fil-A provided the food and refreshments at the staging area in front of the Civic Center Veterans Park. More vehicles continued into the area, as it started to rain. Because of the failing of the weather, the run started a half hour early.
Led by Dougherty County Police and Georgia State Patrol, a stretch Hummer limo provided by Dave’s limo service containing the family, was escorted by four-motor officers that came all the way from Phenix City, Ala. A 48th Brigade Hummer (Rouse was also a 48th Brigade member), the motorcycles, followed by the American Legion Train, along with other vehicles left the Veterans Park, riding down Oglethorpe, up Slappey Dr. to the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge, for the poker hand and dice drawings.
Due the rain, the event was moved inside, where the “Bo Henry Band” set up to play.
At the band’s intermission, the sun came out briefly, allowing the American Legion Post 30 honor guard to present the flag. Dougherty Co. Chief Don Cheek read the list of fallen Georgia officers, pausing at the officer’s name that served under him, to clear his throat and hold back his tears. Rouse was the first officer in the 80-year history of the department to be killed on duty. Cheek hoped he would be the last. At the programs finale, the Legion fired the traditional 21-gun salute and taps was played as the echoes of the shots faded.
The fund raiser continued indoors, with many door prizes raffled and items auctioned off.
Albany Beverage, Budweiser, was instrumental in getting the event information out by printing posters and hundreds of flyers. They also donated a number of auction and door prizes. There were many door prize and auction items also donated by local motorcycle shops and stores. Major items raffled off were a 32-inch flat screen TV donated by Knights Appliance, shotgun from Oakridge Pawn, a 1½-karat diamond ring from Albany Gold and Silver Buyers and a trip to Florida by Navarre Hampton Inn. The afternoon continued with the auctioning of remaining donated items.
Thanks to the Cliff Rouse Facebook page, information was disseminated and donations are still coming in. This site will remain open for information on next year’s Memorial Run. As the motorcycles and vehicles cleared the parking lot, the weather renewed its intensity, with tornados touching down just north of Albany.
Despite the weather, it could not dampen the enthusiasm of over 1,000 people riding in one of the biggest fund raising events of its type in Albany, to pay tribute to this slain officer and raise almost $15,000 for the family of Lt. Cliff Rouse.