First, I again want to say thank you to all the Chiefs, Sheriffs, Officers, Administrators, and fellow Chaplains who have made it possible for me to distribute this message.
May 10-16, 2020 marks the period that we call “Police Week”. In 1962, President Kennedy designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, when we set aside a time of “Recognition of the service given by the men and women who, night and day, stand guard in our midst to protect us through enforcement of our laws”.
Well, 2020 has started out to be a challenging year (to say the least). While all of our lives were certainly impacted in some way, numerous others have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Although we are at 55 deaths as of April 27 (and of those 13 are directly COVID related) , that number will most likely rise once people get back to normal processing. (ODMP shows 13, PoliceOne has 37, so it’s a matter of verification, etc).
This was unexpected, and in a lot of ways, we may not be able to ever fully calculate the cost that this has inflicted upon us. But most of you were out there serving and keeping things safe for the rest of us, even with great risk to you. For that, I (along with countless others) are exceptionally grateful.
Normally I would talk a little about ceremonies that we may be going to and ways we will get together and remember. But this year, we are not able to do that, at least yet. Even though most Police Week events are canceled, the process of remembering is still happening. This year, 307 names are being engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC, making over 24,000 names on the wall. This doesn’t include may others who are honored on state and local walls that may not be a part of these numbers.
So how do we honor those who have given their lives if we can not do our memorials and gatherings?
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that one quote I reuse often is from the poet Cicero, “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” So while we likely can not gather, these people live on because their legacy never dies. We see to that. So here are a couple of ideas that may help us during this time.
- Reschedule these events.
This one is probably the most obvious one. The local county-wide memorial committee that I am part of will be having an event later in the year. So maybe instead of May, we have it in October. To me (my opinion), the “when” is not as important at the fact that we do it, and do it with all the focus that our LEO’s deserve.
2. Honor your department’s heroes.
This one is probably also going to happen, but maybe in different ways than before. Maybe during Police Week we set aside a day to remember each officer that has been lost in our department. Maybe we have a Special Deputy David George Treadway Day where we all get an email and read about our officer. Maybe someone pays respect at their respective grave site, or reaches out to the family that day. My local police have a monument for Police Officer Leo Casto at the entrance of the department. So maybe instead of using the officer entrance, we walk past those, pause, and render a salute.
3. Look for personal connections.
Are there officers from your family that have died while serving? Have a time or remembering with your family in whatever way you can. One of the ways that I personally will be remembering is that 7 officers that are special to me. I have sent this email since 2008, and during that time, 7 officers that had received these emails have been added to that wall. While I may not have known them, they will be remembered by me this year.
Also, If your community doesn’t have a memorial service, consider starting one. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. If you would like some assistance in this area, let me know. I know some people that can help. Don’t let your community’s loss be forgotten.
Thanks for spending a few minutes with me. This message is being read by departments of all shapes, sizes, types and locations. For all my law enforcement family reading this, I’m praying for an especially peaceful and safe week for you: safe citizen encounters, safe traffic stops, safe building searches, and safe DV calls. I pray for a time of healing for the departments reading this who have had a loss in the last year, or with a loss that continues to hurt. But most of all (like I say most every year), I hope now more than ever, there is an outpouring of appreciation from the communities that you serve.
Thank you to each person who has taken the time to read this. You are why I do what I do. Thank you for who you are, and all you do. Don’t forget that people DO care. If I can help in any way, don’t hesitate to contact me.
I’ve said it before and will say it for the remainder of my days. You all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.