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Thousands to Gather to Honor Fallen Officers

May 13, 2004  | 

The law enforcement community comes together every May during National Police Week to honor and remember police officers killed in the line of duty.

“On average, we expect about 25,000 law enforcement officers, their families and survivors, and VIPs to attend,” says Bruce Mendelsohn, communications director with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).

National Police Week takes place in Washington, D.C., every year, during the week in which National Peace Officers Memorial Day falls on May 15th.

Sponsored by the NLEOMF, the 16th Annual Candlelight Vigil will be held May 13 on the grounds of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial at Judiciary Square in Washington, D.C. The names of officers fallen in the past year are newly engraved in the blue-marble walls of the Memorial and will be read following the ceremony.

“The candlelight vigil is probably the highlight of the whole week,” Mendelsohn says. “We draw strength from being together in difficult times and people take comfort in each other.”

In 2003, 148 law enforcement officers were killed in 38 of the nation’s 50 states. According to the NLEOMF Website, more than 14,300 men and women killed in the line of duty are inscribed on the Memorial’s walls, dating back to the first known officer fatality in 1792.

Surviving families and agencies can also find support during other scheduled events, such as the National Police Survivors’ Conference on May 14 and May 16.

Linda Hintergardt Soubirous, national president of the support group Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), says that during this conference COPS holds seminars for family members, friends, and co-workers of officers killed in the line of duty.

Soubirous herself became a survivor in 1993 when her husband, Deputy Kent Hintergardt with the Riverside County (Calif.) Sheriff’s Department, was shot and killed in the line of duty. When he died the couple had a 16-month-old daughter and Soubirous was pregnant with their second child.

“National Police Week was so helpful for me and other widows who had young children,” Soubirous says. “I was in the widows group for officers who were killed felonious. I was nervous when I walked into that room, but when everyone started sharing, we had so much in common that it felt good to share. It gave me the strength to move on and rebuild my life. Now, I am able to reach out and help the newer survivors and give them the hope they need.”

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