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Plans to commemorate the fallen

Laguna detective wants to establish a permanent memorial at the Forest Avenue police station.

November 21, 2013|By Beau Nicolette
  • Left: Officer Gordon French. Right: Officer Jon Coutchie of the Laguna Beach Police Department.
Left: Officer Gordon French. Right: Officer Jon Coutchie… (Courtesy Larry…)

A makeshift memorial for fallen Laguna Beach Police Officer Jon Coutchie still marks the intersection of South Coast Highway and Cleo Street where he died. But that memorial will eventually go.

In the wake of Coutchie's death, Det. Larry Bammer of the Laguna Beach Police Department is spearheading an effort to install a permanent memorial to officers who have died in service to the city.

"A lot of people in the town realized the sacrifice," Bammer said of the makeshift memorial.

Sacrifice is a word Bammer is quite familiar with. He was shot in a botched robbery in 2002 and understands the danger that public service employees face each day.

As president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees' Assn., Bammer is raising money for the monument, which would be installed at the police station on Forest Avenue.

After mulling locations around the city, he chose the station to ensure that officers would see the monument every day and have a chance for reflection.

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"I always thought in the back of my head — having gone to police officer memorials — always scratched my head why for Gordon French we didn't have anything in Laguna," Bammer said.

French was a Laguna Beach officer killed in 1953 after being shot by a prisoner attempting to escape the police station, according to the city's website.

For Bammer and the LBPD, Coutchie's death and the community's support of the department reinforced the idea of a permanent memorial.

"Shortly after Jon died, there was some discussion among the police employees wanting to have something," he said.

To make the idea a reality, the detective has been working closely with the Laguna Beach Arts Commission and Cultural Arts Manager Siân Poeschl, who said the process could take up to a year.

"They are going to collect the donations and then those donations are going to be used by the Arts Commission," she said.

Once the donations are received, the commission will accept design proposals from artists, who are "the experts," Poeschl said. Once the design is chosen, the idea would have to go through the Planning Commission and then to City Council for approval.

The names of the fallen officers will be on the monument, and Bammer would like to see a bench in front of the memorial. But he is leaving the specifics to the artists. He said when a local artist designs a memorial, "It means a lot to the artist. It means a lot to the art community and to the town."

Bammer has set $40,000 as the fundraising goal and said he would like the monument ready to unveil by Sept. 21, the first anniversary of Coutchie's death.

The monument is planned to be a "free-standing installation," Poeschl said. It will be placed in an alcove to the left of the station's front door, where plants and a trash can currently sit.

The first fundraiser will be from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Jan. 27 at Mare Culinary Lounge. Tickets cost $100, with $75 going directly to the Laguna Beach Police Officer Memorial Artwork Fund.

Bammer said events will include a live and silent auction featuring, among other items, a child's pedal car from Fletcher-Jones, a weekend vacation package from the Montage Resort and a cooking lesson from Mare chef Alessandro Pirozzi, who will prepare a meal in the successful bidder's home for up to eight people.

Tickets can be purchased at lbpoliceofficermemorialfundraiser.eventbrite.com, and donation checks can be sent to P.O. Box 1628, Laguna Beach, CA 92652.

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