This week is National Police Week, starting with Monday’s observation of Peace Officers’ Memorial Day.
The first observation was in 1962, and it expanded to a weeklong occasion in 1982. It’s a moment to reflect on the men and women who serve us as sworn officers of the law, and especially those killed in the line of duty.
Last year, 145 officers died as a result of their jobs, including eight from Georgia. Already this year, 50 officers have perished. The average fallen officer was quite in the prime of life at age 41, with 13 years of service, suggesting that these were seasoned professionals victimized by savage criminals, not just rookies suffering from poor judgment or mistakes.
Tonight, there will be a solemn ceremony for these 145 guardians at the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum in Titusville, Fla. Anyone who has seen the marble honor wall’s 8,900 names or toured the museum cannot help but be struck by the bravery and dedication of these servants.
A recent addition to the museum surely gives every visitor the same lump in the throat. It is a squad car assigned to a young officer killed in a gunfight that bears the spontaneously scrawled tributes of residents in the neighborhood he patrolled, expressing their sorrow and serving as a testament to the many lives touched by an officer on a beat. For they do more than fight crime. They befriend the merchants, counsel the young and check on the elderly.
Fortunately, none of our local peace officers will have their names inscribed on that wall this year, but we can still show our appreciation and count ourselves lucky for having them look out for us and safeguarding our values for future generations. As the museum notes, “Real heroes don’t wear capes.”