Idlewild Baptist Church
July 3, 2010
Law enforcement is a unique endeavor, some would say it is a profession, while most involved would say it is a calling. I would argue that there are few undertakings so noble as the protection of your community. It is defined by service and attracts those who truly believe they can make a difference. There are those who question why anyone would ever go into the field of law enforcement. For those of us involved, we could not imagine ever doing anything else. There are many who enter into this profession and serve with distinction, there are a select few who soar above the rest. This is the realm in which Office David Curtis and Officer Jeffery Kocab operated each and every day. Ours is an inherently dangerous business. We face the unknown out on the street every moment. It is our job to question the suspicious, to run towards danger, to guard the weak and remove the treacherous. Dave and Jeff were fully aware of those dangers and took every precaution to ensure their safety. As zone partners for the last five months they helped each other out of dangerous situations on more than one occasion and always had each others back. In fact that is exactly what they were doing, taking care of each other, when what seemed to be a routine traffic stop turned deadly. That is one of the reasons that this tragedy is so difficult to comprehend. They both did things by the book. We understand that bad things happen to good people, but it should not happen to officers who do all the right things while protecting their community. For those reasons and so many more it is just impossible to make sense of the loss of such fine officers.
The turnout today is not only a tribute to their service in our community, but an acknowledgment of the amazing individuals that they were. It is a testament to the impact that they have had on their families, friends and the community. Dave and Jeff defined all that is good within our community. Both strived to keep our city safe, but they also gave back to in a variety of ways.
David Curtis was a mountain of a man. He was an exceptional police officer who loved putting bad guys in jail and serving his community. Those who worked with Dave describe an officer that gave 100% all of the time. He was especially proud to be a member of our Honor Guard. He was given the coveted honor of standing guard at the National Police Officer's Memorial this year. An honor usually reserved for the most senior of guard participants. Ironically he was in Washington D.C. to pay tribute to Corporal Mike Roberts. He was born in Mobile, Alabama and played football at the Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. He and Kelly met while she attended college in Alabama. He was a bouncer at a bar next to the restaurant where Kelly worked. Kelly's keen investigative skills told her that Dave may be interested in her when he began leaving $20 tips for a $5 burger.
Dave may have been a great cop, but I don't think anyone would describe him as a smooth operator. Kelly and Dave realized soon after they began dating that they were soul mates and were married. When Kelly became pregnant with their second son, she told Dave that she needed to come home to her family in Florida. This decision eventually brought him to the Tampa Police Department, via the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, where he served with distinction as a detention deputy. Dave was the kind of a guy that never met a stranger and could talk to anybody. Yet he had a calmness about him that resulted in the de-escalation of many a confrontational situation. He was respected and revered for his abilities on the street. He was also a personal trainer and earned the nickname "spooner" from his squad because he was constantly eating healthy foods. He had a passion for working out and this is where I got to know him, working out in our gym. I missed seeing him on Monday evening because I had a prior commitment, but I was told by the other gym regulars that they were all dancing to Michael Jackson's Thriller, no doubt egged on by Dave. Probably best that I did not see that display of athleticism.
If you had to say what Dave was most proud of it would be his boys. He told stories about his boys and talked about how they swam in the lake, rode four wheelers, went hunting and did a myriad of other boy stuff. There was no doubt that Dave loved his boys with all his heart, you could tell by the way his face lit up as he spoke about them. To truly provide a picture of the kind of man Dave Curtis was, his final act on this earth was to donate his organs so that others may be given a chance at life. I cannot think of another act that would be more selfless.
Being a police officer defined Jeff Kocab. He came to our department as a seasoned veteran having served with Plant City Police for three years. During his tenure with Plant City he was named Officer of the Month four times and Officer of the Year in 2007. To put this into perspective, I have been in law enforcement for 26 years and have never even been Officer of the Month. I am thinking maybe he should have been the chief. By everyone's account, Jeff was an amazing individual. Although only with us for fourteen months, he distinguished himself as a stellar officer through his performance. He was accelerated through our training program, hitting the street with a passion to reduce crime and make our community safe.
His squad mates gave him the nickname of "Taz " , short for the Tasmanian Devil, because he was so full of energy and always on the go with a mission to crush crime. One of his field training officers called him a fire breather, based on his unmatched work ethic and drive. Interestingly enough Jeff was an actor before becoming a police officer. Early on he put those skills to use teaching young kids positive life skills, making a difference in the community even before becoming an officer. Based on his acting skills, he hoped one day to be able to work in an undercover capacity investigating narcotics organizations. No doubt he would have shined in that capacity as well. Jeff was also an accomplished martial artist earning his purple belt and well on the way to his black belt. There wasn't much Jeff couldn't or wouldn't do. Sara met Jeff when she was a waitress and he was the head waiter. Self admittedly Sara had a crush on him. Jeff on the other hand did not seem to immediately realize that they were destined to be together, causing Sara to have to take matters into her own hands. Even a trained investigator like Jeff needs a little help sometimes.
By everyone's account Sara and Jeff were made for each other and were seemingly inseparable through the years that they have been together. They were both looking forward to the birth of their first child. There is an overwhelming sadness in the knowledge that Jeff will not hold his little girl or feel the indescribable depth of love that being a parent brings. When asked if there was anything that Kelly or Sara wanted to convey to the community about their husbands or their lives, the response was "please tell everyone thank you." Having been through the most horrific event imaginable, their thoughts are grounded in gratitude and the well being of others. Your display of strength and grace over the last five days has allowed the rest of us to stand strong. Kelly and Sara were to meet for the first time at a squad party this evening. Instead their lives were inextricable connected early Tuesday morning. If will and wishes could become reality, you two would be meeting for the first time tonight, with all the awkwardness, laughter and camaraderie that we call the squad party. The wounds caused by the death of Dave and Jeff will never completely heal and the void cannot be filled.
To their families, there are no words capable of providing sufficient comfort. All we can do is pledge our undying support and promise to be by your side from this moment forward. For those of us who knew Dave and Jeff our pain is still raw and at times seemingly unbearable. We say to ourselves, if we could just have one more minute to say goodbye, to let them know how much they have impacted our lives. But alas that is not possible. All we can do is honor them by carrying on their legacy and by leading our lives as an example for others to follow. Today we say goodbye to Officer David Curtis and Officer Jeff Kocab, but it is not the last day we will remember their service and sacrifice. Their names are now etched upon the police memorial along with the other Tampa Police Officers who died in the line of duty serving our community. For many generations to come, after we are all gone, they will be remembered for the sacrifice that they made. They are gone from us today, but their lives and service will never be forgotten. God bless you Dave and Jeff, may you rest in peace.