BISMARCK — Dozens of fallen law enforcement officers were honored on Thursday, May 13, in Bismarck as part of an afternoon of events to recognize North Dakota officers who have died in the line of duty.

State and local police officers gathered on the Capitol grounds in front of the North Dakota Peace Officer Memorial to honor and remember the state's 65 officers who have died on the job. Relatives of the fallen officers were present, including the family of Grand Forks Police Officer Cody Holte who died in May 2020 in an exchange of gunfire.

To honor his bravery and service, Holte was awarded the North Dakota Peace Officer of the Year award, which Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem presented to Holte's wife, Mandy, and twin brother, Brady. It's the highest recognition the North Dakota Peace Officers Association gives to anyone in law enforcement, Stenehjem said.

Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson told the crowd at the memorial service that May 27, 2020 — the day Holte died — will forever be etched into the memory of his department and law enforcement statewide.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem presents on Thursday, May 13, 2021, the North Dakota Peace Officer of the Year award to Mandy Holte and Brady Holte, the wife and twin brother of fallen Grand Forks Police Officer Cody Holte. Michelle Griffith / The Forum
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem presents on Thursday, May 13, 2021, the North Dakota Peace Officer of the Year award to Mandy Holte and Brady Holte, the wife and twin brother of fallen Grand Forks Police Officer Cody Holte. Michelle Griffith / The Forum

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“We’ve experienced the full spectrum of emotions but ultimately have come out stronger,” Nelson said. “To say this past year has been challenging for me personally, the Grand Forks Police Department and the law enforcement profession as a whole would be a gross understatement.”

Thursday’s ceremony to honor fallen officers was one event in a week dedicated to North Dakota law enforcement and to those who have died in service to the state

Gov. Doug Burgum has declared May 9-15 as Police Week in North Dakota and Saturday, May 15, as Peace Officers Memorial Day.

“The courageous men and women of North Dakota’s law enforcement agencies provide a vital public service in safeguarding the rights and freedoms of our citizens,” Burgum said in his declaration. “We honor the memory of those heroes who have fallen in the line of duty and recognize all those who put themselves at risk every day.”

Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson spoke at a law enforcement memorial service at the North Dakota Capitol on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Michelle Griffith / The Forum
Grand Forks Police Chief Mark Nelson spoke at a law enforcement memorial service at the North Dakota Capitol on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Michelle Griffith / The Forum

On Thursday evening, two of the state Capitol’s 19 floors were to be lit in blue to display a thin blue line in support of law enforcement, Stenehjem said.

Before Thursday’s memorial service, dozens of law enforcement vehicles met at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery and paraded through Mandan and Bismarck to remember fallen officers and veterans.

In remembering his fellow officer, Nelson said Holte served in law enforcement so “someone else doesn’t have to.”

“I stand here today with a renewed faith — a faith that regardless of all the turmoil in the world, there are still people ready and willing to answer the call and lay it all out on the line,” the chief said.

Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.