In 1962, President John F. Kennedy designated May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week of May 15 as National Police Week. And in 1991, President George H.W. Bush dedicated the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Today, there are more than 17,500 names inscribed on the Memorial, with additional names being added this week, and each subsequent May 15. According to the latest numbers from the Officer Down Memorial Page, 134 officers died in the line of duty in 2008, and 46 more so far in 2009.
May 10–16, 2009 is National Police Week, with May 15 marking the 28th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Day Service. Thousands of LEOs from throughout the United States will be in our nation's capitol to honor our profession's fallen heroes.
Thousands more LEOs will be attending similar ceremonies in every state and many communities across the U.S. A fitting timeout to honor our fallen brother and sister officers who died in the line of duty.
California has been honoring its fallen officers since 1977, and the California Peace Officers Memorial was dedicated in 1988, in the state capitol of Sacramento. The 2009 memorial ceremony was held May 8, with the latest names solemnly added to the list of fallen California peace officers.
Across the country, in Cleveland, Ohio, the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society is holding its 24th annual memorial commemoration, with a memorial parade and ceremony to take place May 15.
I'm familiar with this annual event, which attracts thousands of police participants from the U.S. and Canada. The day after, this year's Tatoo will feature pipes and drum corps from the NYPD Emerald Society, Ottawa Police, Chicago PD Emerald Society, Cleveland PD, Boston Police Gaelic Column, and the U.S. Marine Corps Quantico Band.
May 14, the Cleveland Police Department holds its annual ceremony honoring the more than 100 CPD officers whose badges adorn the agency's "Badge Case."
There are numerous other equally impressive police week memorial dedications and services throughout the U.S. All these police memorial ceremonies serve to remind the public that ours is a profession that protects and serves them—sometimes at a great price to ourselves.
Many, if not most, of us have lost fellow officers in the line of duty, and have attended more than our share of funerals. I know I have. Attending even one police funeral leaves an indelible mark on us—knowing that it could easily be us instead.
Law enforcement deaths could easily weaken our profession's resolve to protect and serve. However, the exact opposite is true. Instead of weakening us, our thin blue line strengthens into a solid steel band of brothers. We may bend, but we will never break.
All of those who serve in law enforcement are owed a debt of gratitude and respect by the public you serve so selflessly. I, for one, honor and admire your dedicated service, and always have. I'm one of you, and have seen you in action many times during my own career. And you have never failed to impress and awe me with your unwavering courage.
As Lt. Col. Dave Grossman says, you are society's sheepdogs, and you willingly and selflessly protect your flock—with your lives if necessary. You are our nation's domestic warriors and heroes. And I thank you for your continuing dedication and service.