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Remembering Their Sacrifice: Food Safety Employees Killed in the Line of Duty

By Al Almanza, Administrator, Food Safety and Inspection Service

Today marks a difficult time in the hearts of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service employees.

Ten years ago, FSIS compliance officers Jean Hillery and Tom Quadros; California special investigator Bill Shaline; and California inspector Earl Willis were shot as they worked together investigating a San Leandro, Calif., sausage plant. Jean, Tom and Bill would die from their injuries, while Earl would barely escape with his life.
Earl recently passed away.

Our fallen comrades are representative of the many outstanding public servants driving our government’s work for all Americans, everyday. USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, FSIS Assistant Administrator William Smith, coworkers, family and I are honoring them in ceremonies today and tomorrow.

Though the plant’s owner was tried and convicted, 10 years later, we haven’t forgotten this tragedy and our commitment to make sure it never happens again.

Workplace violence prevention is a priority for us — and should be everywhere. We emphasize outreach to improve relationships with plant staff, so they know we’re not there to harm them, but to protect the public and assist the plant in producing safe food. Other steps include a 24-hour hotline to report threats and appointing workplace violence liaison/intervention officers nationwide.

As we recall the lives and service of these four, we remember our mission to ensure safe food is a noble, important one. Those performing it — often without thanks and under the radar — are some of America’s most dedicated civil servants.

7 Responses to “Remembering Their Sacrifice: Food Safety Employees Killed in the Line of Duty”

  1. Maynard Pittendreigh says:

    This week I was visiting the National Mall and came across the marker at a tree on the grounds of the Department of Agriculture. A small American flag had been planted next to the tree’s monument stone. We often think that we build so many memorials and monuments, that after a while no one cares about them or pays the least amount of attention to them. I read the stone, took a couple photographs, and wondered who these two individuals were who had died in the line of duty with the Department of Agriculture. A couple of days later, when I arrived home, I searched for their names and came across their tragic stories. Occasionally it is worth noting to those who build such monuments that their time is worthwhile. They do help people remember, and for those who do not remember, these monuments help enlightened those who would not have known otherwise about their stories.

  2. Rebecca [USDA Moderator] says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Maynard.

  3. E.W. Dyer says:

    Investigation Discovery : Fatal Encounters, ran this story 1-18-12. It’s unfortunate these events occurred the way they day, and I agree, I wouldn’t have known about this occurrence without this show. Even more saddening it was all caught on tape.

  4. Carol Seymour says:

    Each time I hear our politicians disparaging government workers I remember these individuals and the countless other people with extrodinary courage and dedication I had the honor of knowing.

  5. Adam says:

    I work in local government and have field inspectors who interact with difficult, hostile, and/or unstable members of the public under circumstances similar to this tragedy. If anyone is aware of training, educational material and/or websites relevant to preventing this type of tragedy, please post it to this blog. Thank-you.

  6. Joel says:

    I found the article at Wikipedia which said the inspectors were trying to get this business owner to lower the heat from 144 to 140 degrees. 1st of all, is the article accurate and if so, how could that make the product safer?

  7. Catie Kidder says:

    Cooking meat safely is a science for both time & temperature of meat. There are guidelines because the wrong amount of heat can produce harmful bacteria.

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