SANTA CRUZ, Calif.- Friends, family and complete strangers gathered together as fallen Santa Cruz Police officers Sgt. Butch Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler were memorialized in an emotional ceremony in San Jose on Thursday.
For some time, the Santa Cruz community has been frustrated with an increase in crime. But a brilliant display of solidarity at today's memorial made us wonder, could the magnitude of their deaths inspire the change the community seeks? We took that question to community members.
Just over a week ago the police department and several officials asked for the community's help moving forward. On Thursday that request was renewed, as the department reminds the community, their deaths were not in vain.
As the last funeral procession came rolling into the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for a private reception at the Cocoanut Grove, we turned to a few people watching all the activity on the sidewalk. Some said while it's heartbreaking to see the police department lose two officers for the first time ever, they're not totally sure if it'll bring about some real change.
"You've gotta sustain an effort to make that kind of change. So all you can do is hope. I think everybody feels like crime keeps getting worse and worse," said resident Henry Jones.
Recently there's been a lot of concern over the city's drug problem, where dirty needles are regularly found on some beaches. Gang crime is also an issue that's kept the department on high alert. But former Santa Cruz Police spokesperson and now county supervisor Zach Friend said the community needs to work together moving forward. Friend said this moment needs to be a turning point for Santa Cruz.
"They looked out for this community. They protected us on sunny days and dark days like the one we faced last week. They've been there to keep us safe and a source of comfort. They've been there for us and not it's our turn to return the favor," said Santa Cruz county supervisor Zach Friend.
Some are a bit more optimistic and hope when police needs help from taxpayers down the line, they'll be there to support a department that's always there for them.
"Then when those propositions come up about you know funding a stronger police force or a better one, I think that will turn for the positive," said resident Joe Nigos.
In terms of hiring more police officers, the department has 10 positions to fill. Right now they have nine candidates going through the background screening process.