Cops on Top Headed to Denali
This spring, when AAC member Troy Bacon leads a small group up Denali’s west buttress, the climbers won’t just be thinking about the route and the weather—they’ll be thinking about a Montana Highway Patrol trooper named Michael Haynes who was killed by a drunk driver last year. Bacon will be leading the six-man team to Denali on behalf of a nonprofit called Cops on Top, which plans annual climbs and frequent expeditions in tribute to police officers who have died in the line of duty.
Cops on Top was founded by Captain Keith McPheeters of the Farmington, N.M., police department. In 1998, Captain McPheeters was a member of his department’s Special Response Team, searching for the killers of Cortez, Colo., police officer Dale Claxton. The manhunt was the largest of its kind in American history. During those months, McPheeters reflected on of the nature of his occupation, the public’s perception of a police officer’s work, and the effect such a loss has on survivors. From these thoughts, the concept of Cops on Top took form.
In June 1999, a team of Dutch and American climbers set out to climb North America’s tallest mountain in honor of Officer Dale Claxton. In 2001, Cops on Top launched another memorial expedition to Denali, this time in honor of Trooper James Saunders of the Washington State Patrol. Since then, Cops on Top has carried out several more expeditions in honor of fallen officers, reaching the summits of Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, and Denali:
• Aconcagua 2004, in honor of Detective James Cawley of the Salt Lake City police department
• Kilimanjaro 2005, in honor of Officer Isaac Espinoza of the San Francisco police department
• Denali 2005, in honor of Officers Jason Wolfe and Eric White of the Phoenix police department
• Elbrus 2005, in honor of Officer Thomas Steiner of the California Highway Patrol
• Aconcagua 2009, in honor of Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski of the Philadelphia police department
Cops on Top also conducts Summit for Heroes and September 11 memorial climbs. In this year’s Summit for Heroes event, on June 26, law enforcement officers, police survivors, friends, and family around the country will attempt to reach the summits all 50 of the states’ highest mountains in honor of law enforcement officers killed in each state. During the September 11 memorials, participants attempt to reach their state highpoints in honor of law enforcement officers and public safety personnel that were killed during the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Bacon, a 34-year-old lieutenant with the Frankfort, Indiana, police department, became involved with the Cops on Top organization in 2005, when he joined a September 11 memorial climb of Hoosier Hill, the highest point in Indiana. Since then, he has participated in every Summit for Heroes event, and he led the organization’s 2009 Aconcagua expedition. “I have personally seen the impact our expeditions have on the healing and grieving process with family members of fallen officers,” he said. “It’s nice to know that Cops on Top can do something to help and to let the families know their loved ones’ sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
To learn more about this nonprofit organization and the 2010 climbs, visit the Cops on Top website.
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