Established in 1984, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a private non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers and to promoting officer safety. The Memorial Fund maintains the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., and is currently building the adjacent National Law Enforcement Museum, which will tell the story of law enforcement through high-tech, interactive exhibitions, historical artifacts, and extensive educational programming.
In October of 1984, then President Ronald Reagan signed legislation authorizing the Fund to establish the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.’s Judiciary Square, the historic seat of our nation’s judicial branch of government.
Dedicated on October 15, 1991, the Memorial is the nation’s monument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. Carved on the Memorial’s two curving, 304-foot-long marble walls are the names of more than 19,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout U.S. history.
Unfortunately, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is unique, in that it is ever-changing; unlike many other memorials in Washington, D.C., new names of fallen officers are added to the monument each spring, in conjunction with National Police Week.
Today, its walls are engraved with the names of nearly 19,000 fallen federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, dating back to the first known officer fatality in 1791.
The Memorial’s beauty and tranquility make it a special place for reflection, contemplation, or just a quiet moment away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and there is no charge to visit. Group tours, upon request, and a free cell phone audio tour are available. Along with various National Police Week events, a number of commemorative ceremonies are held at the Memorial each year, and the site is visited by nearly a quarter million people annually.
National Police Week
In 1962, then President Kennedy declared May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the calendar week in which May 15 falls as National Police Week—the annual tribute to law enforcement service and sacrifice. Thus, National Police Week 2011 will officially take place Sunday, May 15 through Saturday, May 21, although some of the signature events are scheduled outside of that timeframe. For a comprehensive list of scheduled events, go to: www.LawMemorial.org/NPWSchedule.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, along with Concerns of Police Survivors, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the FOP Auxiliary, is a principal organizer of National Police Week. The Memorial grounds is a focal point of the National Police Week observance, responsible for hosting formal ceremonies, as well as impromptu, personal tributes to America’s fallen law enforcement heroes.
One of the National Police Week highlights is the annual Candlelight Vigil, held on the evening of May 13 each year, regardless of the calendar day on which it falls. Every few years, May 13 falls prior to the official start of National Police Week, as it will this year. At this ceremony, approximately 20,000 people from all across the country congregate at the Memorial to honor the fallen officers.
In 2011, 317 names will be dedicated to the Memorial, bringing the total to 19,299 names engraved on the Memorial walls. These include 153 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who were killed in 2010. Their names, along with the names of 164 recently discovered line-of-duty deaths from past years will be officially dedicated on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial at the 23rd Annual Candlelight Vigil this year.
Rise in Officer Fatalities
After a 50-year low in the number of officer fatalities in 2009, 2010 was especially devastating for law enforcement, with officer fatalities rising by 25 percent.
For the 13th year in a row, traffic-related incidents were the number one cause of death. A total of 71 officers were killed nationwide in traffic-related incidents—a 36 percent increase over the 2009 figure. Fifty of those officers died in automobile crashes; 14 were struck and killed while outside of their vehicles; six were killed in motorcycle crashes; and one bicycle patrol officer died when he was hit by a vehicle.
Firearms-related fatalities also spiked last year by 20 percent. A total of 59 officers were fatally shot in the line of duty in 2010.
In 2009, there were five different multiple-fatality shooting incidents, resulting in 15 officer deaths. These “cluster killings” continued in 2010, with five separate incidents—Fresno, California, San Juan, Puerto Rico, West Memphis, Arkansas, Tampa, Florida, and Hoonah, Alaska—resulting in 10 officer fatalities.
“Many have pointed to a more brazen criminal prowling the streets of America, and our law enforcement officers—those on the front lines in the war against crime and terror—became visible and vulnerable targets for these criminals,” said Memorial Fund Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd.
After a hard-hitting year for law enforcement in 2010, preliminary 2011 fatality numbers are again troubling. As of the beginning of April, 57 law enforcement fatalities have been recorded—an increase of 16 percent from the same time last year. Less than four months into 2011, 26 officers have been killed in gunfire-related incidents, an increase of 44 percent compared to the 2010 figure (18). Fortunately, traffic-related fatalities have decreased by 23 percent; however, this year’s disturbing preliminary figures and the increase in fatalities in 2010 should alert all Americans and encourage them to show their support for the officers that serve and protect them every day.
“With the help of our many supporters, we can be sure that our important goals—to increase public support and improve safety measures for the heroic men and women protecting our communities, and to honor America’s fallen peace officers—are accomplished,” said Mr. Floyd.
National Law Enforcement Museum
One major way the Memorial Fund aims to honor, increase public support, and improve safety measures for law enforcement officers is through the upcoming National Law Enforcement Museum.
The mission of the National Law Enforcement Museum is to tell the story of American law enforcement through exhibits, collections, research, and education. The Museum dynamically engages the broadest possible audience in this story, in an effort to build mutual respect and foster cooperation between the public and the law enforcement profession. By doing so, the Museum contributes to a safer society and serves to uphold the democratic ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
Since the formal groundbreaking ceremony held on October 14, 2010, building construction has commenced. On January 3, 2011, Museum construction personnel began moving underground utilities and running water. As of the end of March, construction is advancing right on schedule; the installation of a new water main under E Street has been completed, which will serve the museum, as no water service had existed there before.
Currently, the museum contractor is relocating large electrical vaults to make way for the museum building’s foundation walls. Once completed, the contractor will begin moving sewer pipes and a steam tunnel out of the way of the museum footprint, which should be finished by November 2011.
Once completed, the 55,000-square-foot, mostly underground institution will be a world-class interactive museum where visitor experiences will range from assuming the role of a police dispatcher in the Motorola™ 911 Emergency Call Center; to making split-second, life-or-death decisions posed by the use-of-force judgment simulator; to solving crimes in the Museum’s Target™ Forensics Lab. The museum’s ever-growing, extensive inventory of artifacts will prove to be one of the most comprehensive collections found anywhere in the world.
Other major exhibitions will focus on the history of law enforcement, specialized law enforcement units, “Tools of the Trade,” and a captivating look at a day in the life of an officer. The “Reel to Real” exhibit will allow visitors to compare real-life law enforcement to its depictions in movies and on television, and the DuPont™ Changing Exhibit Gallery will focus on topical issues of the day and landmark moments of law enforcement’s past. In the museum’s “Hall of Remembrance,” visitors will learn the inspirational stories behind the badge of the nearly 19,000 fallen heroes whose names are engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
The Museum is expected to open in late 2013. Until then, Museum staff continues to develop educational programs for the thousands of children and adults who will visit the Museum, as well as nationwide programs for the many individuals of all ages that will only be able to experience the Museum online. Museum staff members are thrilled to share their enthusiasm and excitement for the first-ever national Museum that will tell the story of law enforcement in America.
To stay up to date on museum construction and the capital campaign—appropriately named, “A Matter of Honor”—and to learn more about how you can help, please visit www.LawMemorial.org.
Cary Arberg is on the communications staff at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Visit www.LawMemorial.org for more information.