DALLAS – When Dallas County Sheriff’s Deputy Omar Calderon was laid to rest on July 5, his funeral was a solemn salute.
A 40-year-old father of three, Calderon took his own life after a battle with depression. “He was so sad, I mean it was obvious,” said his widow ShaRonda Calderon. The couple had been married since 2012 and together since 2001.
“If you needed him, he’d be there,” she said. “That’s what I fell in love with. If I needed something, he would be there. That’s what makes a perfect police officer.”
Her husband’s funeral was a tribute, but not what she, a one-time sheriff’s department employee, expected. “There were a lot of things that I was told should have happened that didn’t happen,” she said.
Honoring officers who lose their lives is a delicate, dignified process.
The Dallas County Sheriff’s department uses what are called general orders as their guideline for protocol.
The orders explicitly state Calderon would not receive full honors – those are reserved for line of duty deaths – but the orders do state that deputies who die while off-duty are to be given an officer standing watch beside the casket, an honor guard, a bugler, and a final call broadcasting their badge numbers on the radio.
Those things did not happen, even though ShaRonda said she wanted them.
The funeral was Interim Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown’s decision. Brown attended the service and spoke, telling those that had gathered it was important for them to look out for each other. She also encouraged them to look after Calderon’s family.
When asked about the honors Calderon did not receive, Brown released a statement explaining the general orders do not address suicide. “Absent that, it is the responsibility of the leadership of the department to make decisions that are deemed best for the department,” the statement read.
Brown added, “Due to the nature of Deputy Calderon’s death, the sheriff’s department does not want to condone nor appear to glamorize suicide.”
She also addressed the importance of suicide prevention. “Law enforcement agencies should encourage and promote wellness and safety at every level of the organization,” she said.
ShaRonda Calderon said she did not know Brown was planning to attend or speak at her husband’s funeral.
Wednesday, the Dallas chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association sent Brown a letter voicing “absolute dismay.”
“It is not the department’s right to question why or how an employee’s death occurred to determine if honors were to be provided,” the letter stated, adding Calderon’s death was due to a mental illness.
His widow worries the department’s actions further stigmatize depression. She is disappointed the funeral focused on the way her husband died instead of how he lived - serving Dallas County for 18 years.
“The message that it’s sending is that we’re not here for you,” Calderon said.