In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the calendar week of May 15 as National Police Week. Established by a joint resolution of Congress, National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.
National Police Week, which is commemorated this week, is a time when we give pause to remember the fallen officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving their respective communities, states and the nation. Each year, more names get added to memorials in many states and our nation’s capital. As each new name is engraved and dedicated, we take pause to honor the names from years past, whose service we are forever indebted.
Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware provided a comprehensive and thought-provoking overview about those who put themselves in harm’s way every day for citizens in every community across America.
“Generation after generation of Americans has volunteered to protect our nation’s communities through the service of law enforcement. First as volunteer watchmen, and now as certified professionals, these men and women have been required to undergo rigorous pre-employment testing and evaluation, and receive hundreds of hours of training, just to receive the honor of joining their brothers and sisters behind the badge,” Ware says.
“The color of the uniform varies by organization. However, underneath that shiny badge given to every member of the law enforcement community one will find a heart, a heart full of love for each other and community.
“For many in the public, the badge represents authority — to enforce laws, take away freedoms and even use deadly force to stop an aggressor. For those who are privileged enough to wear it, the badge is a shield that represents a common bond. It is a special bond between those who have agreed to sacrifice their own safety, their own security and their own family’s peace of mind for a calling far greater than one person. It is a shield behind which every officer should feel a sense of pride in knowing that each one of them has made the same commitment, and sacrificed the same comforts, for their fellow mankind,” Ware says.
“For them, the honor is wearing the badge and making a difference, knowing full well, they hold the line — the thin blue line. That thin line is forever fragile. It is weakened each time an officer is lost in the line of duty, only to be immediately strengthened by the rows of officers with blue lights flashing who respond to pay honor and strengthen it once again, forever stronger.
“It truly is an honor to wear the badge, and many continue to do so, despite the ever increasing challenges facing law enforcement each and every day. Many communities face extreme pockets of poverty, criminality, mental illness and poor education. These social ills often lead to a life of drugs and criminality. Many of today’s youth are growing up without parents, mentors or positive role models in their lives to teach them basic life skills,” Ware says.
“Within these challenges, law enforcement demands are ever changing. The public demands that police fix the social ills of their respective communities, an unrealistic expectation within itself.
“On the other hand, within these challenges is an opportunity for law enforcement to play a role in helping our youth avoid the dangers and pitfalls brought about by many of the social challenges faced by growing up in impoverished areas, struggling to survive and obtain an education, and realize there is a big world of opportunity waiting for them. All they need is someone to point them in the right direction. Protecting them is a thin blue line of dedicated professionals,” Ware says.
“It is incumbent upon every member of the law enforcement communities to honor those that went before us, and keep the thin blue line strong, by serving with integrity. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon every community to continue to support law enforcement by showing appreciation for their service and sacrifices, especially those who pay the ultimate sacrifice.
“Most importantly, behind every badge is a family, a family that endures the pain and suffering long after the loss of a loved one’s line of duty death. The most prestigious honor bestowed upon a lost officer is to never, ever, ever let their loved ones lose the love and support of their community and the law enforcement community,” Ware says.
Ware encourages everyone to visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. The memorial features the engraved names of officers killed in the line of duty nationwide. Included on the wall, as well as at the Ohio Peace Officer Memorial in London, Ohio, are the names of the officers lost in the line of duty within local law enforcement agencies.
In 2017, 129 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty. The number represents a 10 percent decrease over 2016 when 143 officers died in the line of duty.
Forty-six law enforcement officers were shot and killed in 2017, a 31 percent decrease from the year before. Nine of them appear to have been killed in circumstances that national observers consider an ambush.
There were also 46 traffic-related fatalities in 2017. There were 31 automobile crashes, of which 14 were single-vehicle crashes. Ten officers were struck and killed, and five officers died in motorcycle crashes.