Concerned citizens and veterans packed City Hall in Beloit, Wisconsin Monday night to contest the Beloit Police Department’s decision to ask the Honor Guard to forgo the traditional three volley salute before a veteran’s burial. BPD cited an often-overlooked ordinance during the veteran’s funeral on Presidents Day. Police Chief David Zibolski claims the sound of weapons being fired in residential, or high-traffic areas, could cause concerns over public safety.
The department argues that drivers heading down a busy street or through a busy intersection could cause an accident if startled by firearms that are discharged as part of the salute. They also argue that gunfire inside of residential areas could be a public safety concern and disruptive to residents in areas surrounding popular churches and funeral homes.
Local legislature allows the three-volley salute at various cemeteries in the city. Approval and coordination is needed for spaces outside of city cemeteries. Permission must be sought and is subject to denial by the city, according to Beloit city statute.
The longest-tenured members of the group have been carrying out honor guard duties since 1968. They state that this is the first time they were ever asked to forgo the salute. Police ordered the service be moved away from the church to an area across the street.
Police chief Zibolski defended the department’s actions, saying the current ordinance prohibits the firing of any weapon within city limits. He went on to say that conducting the honorary firings in some city areas could stand as a possible risk to the general peace of a neighborhood.
Veterans and citizens both voiced their displeasure with Zibolski’s defense.
“This is all about respect and honoring each veteran correctly, they are honoring people that gave their time and lives for serving for their country,” said Jerry Murphy, Director of Daley-Murphy-Wisch Funeral Home.
City Council President Dave Luebke also publicly voiced his support for the veterans and their traditions. He said the city will continue to honor veterans in Beloit, and went on to promise that the three volley salute would not be hindered from local cemeteries.
“The salute is a dignified and honorable way to honor our veterans, and that will not change,” said Luebke.
Councilors Regina Dunkin and Mark Preuschl also supported the salute and veterans. Preuschl went as far to apologize on behalf of the city. City legislators have stated that the current ordinance will be revised to be more accepting of the traditional salute.