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Community gathers to honor Langley officer

A line of police and emergency response vehicles, led by Langley police cars, travels down Highway 525 before Tuesday
A line of police and emergency response vehicles, led by Langley police cars, travels down Highway 525 before Tuesday's memorial service for Michael Birchfield, a Langley police officer who passed away June 6 from pneumonia.
— image credit: Spencer Webster

LANGLEY —- Michael Birchfield was remembered by family, friends, colleagues and the communities where the police officer served, during a memorial Tuesday at St. Hubert Catholic Church in Langley.

Birchfield, 48, died June 6 of pneumonia. Birchfield joined the Langley Police Department after serving in the Navy, later working as a detective for the Island County Sheriff’s Office, before returning to the police department in Langley in 2006.

The Rev. Jerry Kienzle led the congregation with hymns and readings from the Bible before a communion mass. He spoke of Birchfield’s enjoyment of music.

“His ears were always wide open, always a step ahead of most people in music, always discovering new music,” Kienzle said. “Even now, family, friends, relatives, peace officers; at the young age of 48, Michael is discovering new music in the promised land of heaven.”

Following the mass, Langley Mayor Neil Colburn recalled an officer who was a vital part of the police force and the community.

“He brought a new interpretation, a new meaning to community policing in Langley,” Colburn said.

“He was part of our community. He raised his family in our community. As a community, we mourn. I think the Langley community has lost a quietly extraordinary young man,” Colburn said.

“Mike had a deep appreciation for the citizens of South Whidbey,” said

Leif Haugen, a deputy with the Island County Sheriff’s Office. “He also had a knack for communicating with the youth in the area.”

Langley Police Chief Bob Herzberg said

Birchfield was a stickler for doing the right thing.

“My first thought of Mike is - my friend. Having a partner is a really special thing. Michael was all of that,” Herzberg said.

“He was stubborn and persnickety about things he believed in. He was so ethically correct. Overall, he was such a great guy, a good friend. He really cared and he could talk with anyone, bad guys or good guys or kids,” Herzberg said.

Herzberg told mourners what he thought Birchfield would say if he could be there.

“It is so cool that you are here for me today. But start paying attention to what is going on, on a daily basis. Tell people in your life that you love them, show your partners you care. When the bell rings, we won’t have any regrets,” Herzberg said.

As a final tribute to Birchfield, Island County’s emergency dispatch center held a roll call over police and emergency response radios.

A dispatcher called for Rover Four, Birchfield’s identification code, and ended with a final farewell to the fallen officer.

“Rover Four, out of service - June 6, 2007. Gone but not forgotten.”

Birchfield is survived by his son Jeremy, daughter Fallon and grandson Kieran, his sister Candace, brother Tom, nephew TJ and niece Sadie.

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or at swebster@southwhidbeyrecord.com

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