Every year, during the week of May 15th, thousands of Law Enforcement supporters gather in Washington D.C. and around the United States to honor officers who have lost their life in the line of duty. In D.C., the week begins with the annual Blue Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where first responders gather to pay hom- age to those serving in law enforcement and public safety agencies, and ask for protection throughout the year.

Throughout the week, there are activities and events planned throughout the city; from bag-pipe band competitions, to candlelight vigils, to coping conferences for family members who lost a loved one. Probably the highest profile event that takes place each year is the Annual National Peace Officer’s Memorial Service, held May 15th each year for the last 35 years. In 1982 the Fraternal Order of Police sponsored the first memorial service in Washington D.C. which was attended by 120 survivors and supporters, and that number has grown exponentially with over 40,000 people and officers expected this year from around the globe.

201513Although the earliest recorded line of duty death dates back to 1791 when Sheriff Cornelius Hogeboom was killed while attempting to serve a writ of ejectment, the idea of honoring the brave men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice while keeping our communities safe didn’t begin until 1962 when President John F. Kennedy designated May 15th as National Peace Officers Memorial day. Kennedy noted: “It is important that our people know and understand the problems, duties, and responsibilities of their police departments and the necessity for cooperating with them in maintaining law and order…it is fitting and proper that we express our gratitude for the dedicated service and courageous deeds of law enforcement officers, and for the contributions they have made to the security and well-being of all our people.”

Although President Kennedy’s proclamation was signed in the early 60’s, it took over 20 years before a national memorial service for fallen state, local, and federal officers was held. Two years later, President Reagan authorized the establishment of a National Law Enforcement Memorial, located in Washington D.C. on Judiciary Square, and in 1991 President George H.W. Bush presided over the dedication of the National Law Enforcement Memorial. Support for the Memorial is ever growing. In 1994 President Clinton signed into law that every year on May 15th all flags would be lowered and flown at half-staff, and in 2010 ground broke on the National Law Enforcement Museum.

The Memorial is beautifully landscaped with plush greens and colorful flower beds, and features two curving 304-foot-long marble walls with the names of over 20,000 officers killed in the line of duty, as well as two tree lined “pathways of remembrance” where names of the fallen are etched. Guarding the 4 pathways are bronze statues of an adult lion protecting its cubs portraying the protective role of law enforcement officers, and conveying the strength, courage, and valor that are hallmarks of those who serve and protect. Under each statue are inspiring quotes honoring those memorialized:

“It’s not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived” – Vivian Eney Cross, Survivor; “In Valor there is hope” – Tacitus

“The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.”; “Carved on these walls is the story of America, of a continuing quest to protect a national treasure that we call the American dream.”
– President George H.W. Bush.

Every year, in conjunction with National Police week, new names are added to the Memorial. This year 123 names will be etched in eternity.

201520New York State has its own Police Officers Memorial that honors the memory and sacrifice of officers from around the state who gave their lives in the line of duty. It is located at the Empire State Plaza near the State Capitol Building in the City of Albany, NY. A Remembrance Ceremony is held at the Memorial each year during the month of May. This year the ceremony will be held on Tuesday, May 10th.

The NYS Memorial wall is polished black granite that is divided into 12 panels. It was designed by the New York State Office of General Services based on a design concept submitted by Colleen Dillon Bergman, daughter of State Trooper Emerson J. Dillon Jr. who was slain in the line of duty in 1974 after 16 years of service with the New York State Police. A quote from Mrs. Bergman’s letter is engraved on the nameplate wall: “It doesn’t matter from which department they came, the feeling of loss is experienced the same.”

The names of 1,413 officers are engraved on the Memorial wall. Among them are the 22 officers from the Suffolk County Police Department. Names are placed randomly on the wall and without rank.

Suffolk County PBA honors the memory of the 22 officers who gave their lives in protection of others at an annual ceremony held at Police Headquarters in Yaphank. This year the Police Memorial will be held on May 6th at 11am. The brave officers who made the ultimate sacrifice will always be remembered in the hearts and souls of all PBA members.