In Memoriam

One of the most difficult things we face in our profession is the loss of a fellow law enforcement officer.  Unfortunately, it is a reality and is spiking across America again. 

In our 235 year history, Yakima has never had an officer die on duty.  Unfortunately, on August 3, 2021, Sergeant Joe Deccio died unexpectedly while at work. 

Below are the remarks I made at his celebration of life.

On behalf of the Deccio family and Joe’s YPD family I would like to thank everyone for coming today.  I would also like to thank all of you who have given so generously to make this event happen, to support Amber and the Deccio family, and the dozens of letters and cards expressing your condolences and love.

Sergeant Joe Deccio had an exceptional resume. His 15-year-service for the Yakima Police Department included roles on patrol, Field Training Officer, SWAT-Sniper Team Leader, Field Training Coordinator, School Resource Officer Sergeant, and most recently as Detective Sergeant in the Property Crimes Unit. He was an outstanding police officer and friend.

The Yakima Police Department is 135 years old, and tragically, Sgt. Deccio was the first police officer to die while on duty. Needless to say, like Joe’s family we are heartbroken by this loss.

Like Joe, I am an early riser.  I go through the Garfield School neighborhood each day before heading to work.  But I am still usually among the first people in the building each day.  And almost EVERY day, Joe was the first person I greeted.  I could see his reflection as I walked past his office to my own.  Hearing his deep voice saying, “morning Chief” is something I already miss, and I will always miss.

Joe LOVED his team.  He watched out for them…  Called when they were out sick and coached them when they struggled.  Property Crimes is a tough job.  The caseload is extreme, and it has been hard to keep a team intact.  But Joe was a leader and his people loved him right back.

Most of you have seen police shows where the police meet in a room before the shift with the sergeant holding a clipboard and talking to the “troops”.  We call that muster.  Joe was a hard worker – but occasionally I saw him sitting with his team.  It was cute – I called it “mini-muster”.  It probably wasn’t that funny, but everyone has to laugh at the chief’s jokes.

Speaking of jokes, Joe was a serious guy.  But he had a deep sense of humor.  One of my favorites was early this spring when many of us were getting our first Covid shots.  Of course, there was a lot of talk, some disagreement, and HUGE bravado.  One of the big questions was whether we would all get sick from the shot.  Nate Henyan was one of Joe’s detectives at the time.  Now, you gotta know Nate, but he likes to share (with everyone he can) that he is a specimen above mere mortals.  He performs a Tae Kwon Do move and says he has, “Tiger Blood”. It’s pretty funny.

But in fact, Nate did get sick.  And a lot sicker than a Tiger.  He had to take a day off.  That was too much for Joe.  He immediately started ribbing Nate and I won’t mention what kind of blood he pronounced as running through Nate’s veins.

The best part was the photo Joe plastered around the Property Crimes Unit.  The caption said, “First we battled Covid, now we are battling the vaccine!  Nate is our last hope to defeat it!”

Joe was just a joy to be around. 

You have heard us all talk about how devoted Joe was to his family.  I can personally tell you that he put them first, in a very real way.  To Amber, Tyson, Trent, Ted, Alania, Mike and Dana – in the past week you have it over and over.  But I want to say publicly, our hearts are broken with and for you.  We consider you part of our family and pray that you never hesitate to reach out when you have a need…however small.

To the members of Joe’s YPD family.  It is ok to be sad.  Deeply sad.  We all are.  It has been an extremely rough year for everyone – but for law-enforcement in particular.  Look around you.  Know that you are loved and supported in THIS COMMUNITY.  Keep working hard, dedicate yourselves to Joe, his family, and the Yakima community.

And to everyone here or watching this celebration of life.  Joe was yours.  He was of and from this valley.  The best thing we can do now is to love and support Joe’s family and never, ever forget, Yakima Police Sgt. Joe Deccio.

Thank you.

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