In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation that designated May 15th as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which it fell as National Police week. As this week comes to an end, we are reminded of the contributions of our nation’s peace officers and honor the men and women of law enforcement who have been killed or disabled in the course of serving our communities. This is a time for communities, across the country, to formally recognize and thank law enforcement.
The ceremonies, honoring fallen law enforcement, happen at every level. They are a simple as simple thank-you at a memorial in a small town, deep in the heart of our country, or the National Peace Officer Memorial Service held on Wednesday in Washington D. C., where tens of thousands attended to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Independent of the size of gatherings, the intent is still the same. This past Wednesday Kings County held a celebration and memorial service at the County Government Center – an annual event to honor our local fallen heroes.
The Memorial Service in Washington D. C. began in 1982 as a gathering in Senate Park of approximately 120 survivors and supporters of law enforcement. Decades later, the event, more commonly known as National Police Week, has grown to a series of events that attracts between 25,000 and 40,000 survivors and law enforcement officers to our Nation's Capital each year.
What are Peace Officers? Today, the term sounds a little out of place. Historically, Peace Officers generally referred to law men and women, whether sheriffs, constables, troopers are marshals. Today, “police officer or law enforcement officer” has replaced that moniker. Whatever the term, Peace Officers have protected Americans for more than 220 years. They are the thin blue line comprised of those whose duties it is to serve, protect and sacrifice everything in the service of others. It is our duty, as citizens, to support them as they risk their lives to safeguard ours. There are nearly one million Peace Officers who pin on their badge and daily stand between us and those who would do us harm. They are the security blanket over our homes, communities, borders and roadways.
According to statistics reported to the FBI, 106 law enforcement officers were killed in line-of-duty incidents in 2018. Of these, 55 officers died as a result of felonious acts, and 51 officers died in accidents. The average age of the officers who were feloniously killed was 37 years old. The victim officers had served in law enforcement for an average of 10 years at the time of the fatal incidents. Offenders used firearms to kill 51 of the 55 victim officers. Four officers were killed with vehicles used as weapons. In terms of accidental deaths, 51 law enforcement officers were killed accidentally while performing their duties in 2018, an increase of 3 when compared with the 48 officers accidentally killed in 2017.
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The role of law enforcement is critical for good order and discipline at every level. The liberties we all enjoy so freely are largely due to the rule of law that is enforced and protected by the brave men and women of our nation’s law enforcement team. They help bring justice to crime victims and peace to communities that have been affected by crime.
Locally, NAS Lemoore’s installation Security Detachment Forces interact and train with their civilian counterparts on a regular basis. This ensures all involved learn about and benefit from each other’s best practices in the event of a real-world situation. We are familiar with each other’s capabilities and can seamlessly work together.
It is important, not just this week, but every week, to honor those who put themselves on the front lines of the fight to preserve and protect the roots of our nation’s greatness. These fallen heroes were the ideal of citizenship as they understood the responsibilities and obligations that come with that right. It is a steep price to pay and they, along with their families, have paid that price. While we can never truly repay our debt to their families, we must do what we can with what we have. We should all strive to live our lives in a way that pays tribute to their memory and sacrifice. This is a solemn reminder to thank Peace Officers and Security Forces everywhere for the risks they assume each and every day to keep us safe. Too often, their contributions and service go unnoticed and unappreciated, yet they are the unquestionably the first ones we look to for help and protection.
To all Law Enforcement and Security Forces that read this: On behalf of the citizens you protect, thank you for keeping us safe and the daily sacrifices you make.