National Police Week Traditions

This May 11–17, 2008 every officer should plan on attending a local or state police week memorial service if you can't attend the events in Washington, D.C., where the national law enforcement officers memorial stands.

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National Police Week is fast approaching and with the younger officers, it is incumbent that we pass on our police traditions. This May 11–17, 2008 every officer should visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Website. You should also plan on attending a local or state police week memorial service. Don't have one? Organize a committee in your city or town to begin one.

I would hope that your academy and department instill in their officers a strong sense of traditions. But for those who have not had that opportunity, here is a brief overview.

Black Badge Ribbon or Mourning Bar

The black ribbon placed over the badge is worn to symbolize the law enforcement community in mourning.


The history of the bagpipes for officers in the United States originates from law enforcement and fire fighters in the eastern states. Most officers were of Irish decent and bagpipes traditionally announced the Queen's Army marching to and from battle. With its beautiful tones, it is traditional to honor the officer and the family.

The bagpipe is much used by the Irish. To its sounds, this unconquered, fierce, and warlike people march their armies, and are encouraged to feats of valor. With it they also carry their dead to the grave, making such a mournful sound as to force the bystander to weep.

Riderless Horse

Symbolizes the rider not returning. It originates from times when horses were the primary means of transportation. The boots are reversed in the stirrups symbolizing the missing rider.

Twenty-One Gun Salute

The firing of three volleys, according to ancient belief, will scare away evil spirits. This ceremony was modernized to a twenty-one-gun salute in the United States.


Played to honor the fallen officer, in our para-military occupation.

Taps was sounded that night in July 1862, words were put with the music. The first were, "Go To Sleep, Go to Sleep." As the years went on many more versions were created and this could be another article in itself.

Folding of the American Flag

The casket is covered with the American Flag. The flag symbolizes the service of the deceased in the community and the United States. After it has been folded the flag is presented to the next of kin.

These are but a few of our more visible traditions. Special thanks to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund for their information, support, and all that they do for us.

This column is in honor of Sgt. Habersham W. Harvey of the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department. End of Watch: 10/20/1881 (Panel 46, E -12)

Train like your life is at stake; it just may be some day.

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