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Fallen corrections officers honored in ceremony

Families take part in memorial at Jacksonville's Metropolitan Park

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Corrections and peace officers from all over the U.S. are in Jacksonville for a national convention, and the first day of the event began with an emotional tribute at Metro Park for officers who've lost their lives in the line of duty.

One of those honored was Amanda Baker, who was killed at a detention center in Nebraska. She left behind a 7-year-old son, named David.

"I love my mom, me and her used to have fun together," David said.

Amanda Baker was one of seven correctional officers honored Friday at the National Memorial Ceremony at Metropolitan Park.

Linda Dizmon, the spokesperson for the Correctional Peace Officer Foundation, said corrections officers are often referred to as the hidden cops, because they are not seen by the public. That means most people don't realize the dangers they face every day.

"The perception is that, 'Yay! We catch the bad guy. We catch him, we sentence him, he's guilty, he's gone. Yay!' The public says it's great, but who gets them?" Dizmon said. "We get them, for the rest of their lives."

The CPO Foundation is a national, nonprofit organization focused on honoring and supporting the families of correctional officers who have lost their lives to protect others.

A mobile memorial was in Jacksonville this week, carrying a collage of pictures from past memorials and families who've lost a loved one. It's just one way that the CPO Foundation honors fallen officers. Opposite the picture collage are the names of all the officers who have lost their lives.

Dizmon said when these officers go into work, they put their lives on the line working with the worst kind of criminals: thieves, sex offenders and killers.

"When death comes and an officer is killed in the line of duty, we have a responsibility to take care of our own, which is our motto," Dizmon said.

She said even though they are miles apart, they are still family who are there for each other, especially in times of tragedy. It's a bond that the Baker's loved ones treasure after the support they received after her death.

"It means a lot, just knowing that she wasn't forgotten and she's remembered," Randy Baker said. "We appreciate that very much. That's something that's going to stick with us forever."

Children at the ceremony were also treated to a special pool party, a ferry ride along the St. Johns River and a number of other fun activities.

"Unfortunately, we have this ceremony because we have correctional officers that were killed or died in the line of duty, which is why we're here today to honor them," said Lt. Ellis Burns, commander of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Honor Guard. "But I think it shows our community the support for correctional officers and law enforcement."