This week, more than 25,000 law enforcement professionals are attending National Police Week events in Washington, DC to remember and honor those officers who died in the line of duty. In addition to connecting and sharing in their solidarity, the officers will attend daily events such as Catholic masses, candlelight vigils, memorial services, survivor conferences, and honor guards.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Officers Memorial Day as May 15 with a proclamation , which states “it is fitting and proper that we express our gratitude for the dedicated service and courageous deeds of law enforcement officers and for the contributions they have made to the security and well-being of all our people.”
The Peace Officers Memorial Day has grown over the years to become law enforcement’s premier celebration of individual sacrifice. This year’s week of activities and conferences is the latest incarnation of a necessary and meaningful time for peace officers around the country.
Police officer deaths increased by 24 percent in 2014. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund report, 126 officers were killed in 2014.The number of police officers killed by firearms also rose by 56 percent—from 32 in 2013 to 50 in 2014.
There are more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers serving in the United States. On average, one law enforcement officer is killed every 58 hours in the line of duty. The deadliest day in U.S. law enforcement history was September 11, 2001, when 72 officers were killed while responding to the terrorist attacks on America.
In addition to sworn law enforcement officers, National Police Week invites coworkers and family members of fallen officers to participate. Sponsored by Concerns of Police Survivors, the National Police Survivors Conference and C.O.P.S. Kids/Teens is a two-day conference that provides surviving friends and family the opportunity to connect with others, prepare for trial and receive grief support.
In addition to C.O.P.S., several programs and training organizations assist police officers to live healthy lives and come home alive. Law enforcement officers are often placed in life-threatening situations, and they must react quickly. Many officers use National Police Week as a way to cope with the loss of co-workers and the stress of the job. They create support systems and use debriefs for emergency and crisis management.
National Police Week wraps up Friday, May 15 with the 34rd Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service at the United States Capitol. It will be followed by the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.