Twenty-five years ago today, President Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 98-534, authorizing the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund to build a memorial in Washington, DC, to honor U.S. law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. Seven years later, the DC-based non-profit organization dedicated the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial as the nation's monument to law enforcement service and sacrifice.
This month, the NLEOMF is commemorating a quarter century of service to the law enforcement community through its efforts to honor and remember officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and to generate increased public support for the 900,000 men and women who continue to serve in law enforcement today.
"Twenty-five years ago, there was no National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to honor those dedicated law enforcement officers who put the safety and protection of others ahead of their own, and far too many of our law enforcement heroes went unrecognized and unheralded," said NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd, who has led the organization since its inception. "Today, our nation's law enforcement officers are more appreciated and safer, because of the work of the Memorial Fund and our partners and supporters."
Legislative efforts establishing the Memorial Fund were led by former U.S. Representative Mario Biaggi, a 23-year veteran of the New York City Police Department who was wounded 10 times in the line of duty, and former U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, who died this past January.
Five years after President Reagan signed the legislation authorizing its creation, ground was broken on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in October 1989. Two years after that, on October 15, 1991, the nation's monument to fallen law enforcement officers was formally dedicated in a ceremony officiated by President George H.W. Bush.
"For too long, America's lawmen and women have been the forgotten heroes, forgotten until there's trouble, until we're stranded on the road, or frantically dialing 911 at home. Today we remember these heroes and heroines," President Bush said at the time.
The Memorial includes the names of every known U.S. law enforcement officer who has died in the line of duty, dating back to the first recorded officer death in 1792. The NLEOMF has overseen the engraving of all 18,661 names on the Memorial, and, in partnership with the United States Park Service, maintains the three-acre parkland on which the Memorial rests.
In addition to building and maintaining the Memorial, other accomplishments of the NLEOMF during its first 25 years include the following:
- Researched, collected and catalogued information on more than 18,600 law enforcement fatalities throughout U.S. history-the largest such database in existence.
- Serves as a principal organizer of National Police Week each May and conducts an annual Candlelight Vigil each May 13 at the Memorial to honor fallen officers.
- Successfully advocated for a federal law requiring flags to be flown at half-staff each May 15, Peace Officers Memorial Day, as a show of respect for officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
- Publishes twice-annual research reports on officer fatality trends and issues, and conducts various programs, including a "Drive Safely" campaign, to help protect officers and reduce injuries and fatalities.
- Operates the NLEOMF Officer of the Month Award to recognize currently serving officers who go above and beyond the call of duty.
- Launched the campaign to build the National Law Enforcement Museum adjacent to the Memorial in Washington, DC. Scheduled to open in 2013, the Museum will tell the story of American law enforcement through exhibits, collections, research and education.
"At its core, the mission of the Memorial Fund is to generate increased public support for the law enforcement profession," said Mr. Floyd. "For the past 25 years, we have accomplished this not only by commemorating the service and sacrifice of America's law enforcement officers on the National Memorial, but also by providing information that promotes law enforcement safety. Over the next 25 years, we will take our mission to an entirely new level, with the opening of the first-ever national museum devoted to telling the full and incredible story of law enforcement in America," he added.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. The Memorial Fund does not receive government funds for its operations, but relies on donations from individuals, law enforcement organizations, corporations and foundations.
For more information visit www.nleomf.org.