BERLIN - As part of National Law Enforcement week, during which police departments from around the country honor officers who have died in the line of duty, Berlin police remembered one of their own Tuesday morning.
“I never met Jeff Casner, but I felt like I have, and it’s because of the job that our department does in keeping his memory alive,” said Deputy Chief Chris Ciuci after the ceremony. “We’re going to continue to do that and hopefully young officers like Jim (Monthei) will feel that same way, like he knew Jeff.”
Jeffery G. Casner, while directing traffic at an accident scene, was struck and killed by a drunken driver who went off the Berlin Turnpike on Feb. 2, 1985. Twenty-one years old at the time, he is the only Berlin officer to have died on the job, according to previous Herald reports.
The department’s commemoration of Casner’s life had been held on Feb. 2 until a few years ago, when it was moved to coincide with National Law Enforcement Week at the request of his family.
The ceremony is held by his gravesite at Maple Cemetery, 1164 Worthington Ridge.
“Our family is so grateful to the Berlin Police Department for honoring Jeffery every year. His tragic death from a drunk driver was heartbreaking,” said Anne Aresco, one of Casner’s sisters. She was in attendance with her sister and mother.
“To have these officers come out every year for a memorial in his honor and to award the police officer with the most DUI arrests the previous year is admirable. During police week, it is a time to reflect on the lives lost in the line of duty and to be grateful for those who spend every day in our communities keeping us safe.”
This year’s 33rd anniversary ceremony consisted of the honor guard presenting a wreath at his gravesite that read “Always remembered” on a ribbon, two high school students playing taps, and Police Chief John Klett presenting the Jeffery G. Casner award for excellence in DUI enforcement to Officer James Monthei.
“It’s a nice award to receive because I worked very hard to get dangerous people off the roadways who are impaired by drugs or alcohol,” said Monthei. He has been with the department for three years and made 14 DUI arrests in 2017, 25 percent of the DUI arrests for the department. “It’s nice to recognized for the hard work,” he said.
Monthei, who was a paramedic before joining the force and still is one, said making sure people are operating safely is a primary focus of his, as Casner and making sure everyone on the roads is safe has an impact on him.
The department recently named its new dog Casner.
“I’m very strict on motor vehicles, so I take care of all sorts of traffic problems and whatever is a danger to the public,” said Monthei, “making sure people are operating safely.”
The driver who hit Casner on that 1985 evening was sentenced to 16 months in prison, but died in a motorcycle accident the weekend before he was to report.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.