In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week in which that date falls as National Police Week. So to commemorate today’s beginning of this year’s National Police Week, I am highlighting the events taking place, many of which will take place at The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, located on E Street, between 4th and 5th Streets, in northwest D.C. (MAP). The Memorial is the nation’s monument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. Unfortunately, unlike many other memorials in D.C., the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is always changing, with new names of fallen officers added to the monument each spring, in conjunction with National Police Week.
Activities and events scheduled for this week are varied, from Thursday’s Fraternal Order of Police Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Memorial to the 33rd Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day Services, also on Thursday, on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building. Some of the other activites will include: Wednesday’s 20th Annual Emerald Society and Pipeband March to and Service at the Memorial; the National Police Survivors’ Conference on Wednesday in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, and; The National Law Enforcement Prayer Breakfast and Blessing of the Badge, to take place at the Ronald Reagan Building on Thursday. One of the highlights of the week will be the 26th Annual Candlelight Vigil, which will take place on Thursday at the Memorial. A reading of the names newly engraved on the Memorial will immediately follow the vigil.
On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the U.S. every 58 hours. Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice. Last year, 101 men and 4 women serving in law enforcement died in the line of duty across the country. In 2013, more officers were killed in Texas (13) than any other state; followed by California (10); Mississippi and New York (7); and Arkansas (6). Nine officers killed in 2013 served with Federal law enforcement agencies. On average, the officers who died in 2013 were 42 years old and had served for 13 years. A complete copy of the preliminary report on 2013 law enforcement fatalities is available at: http://www.nleomf.org/facts/research-bulletins/.
The good news is that law enforcement officer fatalities dropped for the second year in a row to the lowest level since 1959, and the number of officers killed in firearms-related incidents this year was the fewest since the 1800’s. The significant drop in law enforcement fatalities during the past two years serves as encouragement that the intensified effort to promote law enforcement safety is making a difference. But the only acceptable number would be zero deaths, and there have already been 34 officers killed in 2014.