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Webster chief to speak at Lewis County police appreciation event

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BEAVER FALLS — Webster’s police chief will be the guest speaker Friday at an annual event designed to recognize law enforcement officials and honor fallen officers.

“These individuals don’t know when a traffic stop or a simple, routine call is going to result in their death,” said Lewis County District Attorney Leanne K. Moser, who is helping to organize the third annual Lewis County Police Appreciation Ceremony, slated for 7 p.m. at the Beaver River Central School auditorium.

Gerald L. Pickering, who has served as police chief in the Rochester suburb of Webster since 2001, saw that first-hand only five months ago.

Two Webster volunteer firefighters — Michael J. Chiapperini, 43, and Tomasz Kaczowka, 19 — were killed in a Christmas Eve ambush in which the perpetrator set fire to his house and car, then opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle when first responders arrived. He also wounded two other firefighters and an off-duty police officer before killing himself.

Mr. Chiapperini, also a lieutenant with the Webster Police Department, and Mr. Kaszkowka, also an emergency dispatcher for the city of Rochester, both will be honored at Friday’s ceremony.

The free event, held in conjunction with National Police Week, is open to the public.

Pictures and memorabilia will be displayed, and refreshments will be served afterward.

While the guest speaker hails from Western New York, he is no stranger to Lewis County.

His wife, Charlene Berry Pickering, is the daughter of Florence and the late Robert Berry, Copenhagen, and is a graduate of Copenhagen Central School. She also earned degrees from SUNY Cortland and Nazareth College, Rochester, and spent her professional life in municipal service, including time as director of parks and recreation for the town of Victor.

The Pickerings have two sons: Luke, who is attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Cole, a senior at Victor High School who plans to attend Rochester Institute of Technology in the fall.

Chief Pickering joined the Webster Police Department in 1984 after serving for several years as an Ontario County sheriff’s deputy. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and graduated in 2004 from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.

Chief Pickering also has served as a volunteer firefighter and ambulance squad member and is a member of several regional and state police and fire boards.

Since 1791, an average of about 97 police officers have been killed in the line of duty each year within the United States and its territories, Ms. Moser said. That equates to nearly two deaths each week.

“That’s why we need to do this,” she said.

Organizers of the event also are encouraging local business owners and residents to display blue lights and ribbons throughout the week as a show of support for law enforcement officials.

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