By Russell B. Laine, Chief of Police, Algonquin, Illinois
he National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., serves as a stark reminder of the dangers faced and the sacrifices that have been made by our fellow law enforcement officers. Every name on that wall represents not only the tragic loss of a law enforcement officer and a department traumatized by the death of a fellow officer but also, more significantly, a family devastated by the loss of a loved one. Each name symbolizes a parent deprived of a son or daughter, a spouse deprived of a partner, or a child deprived of a parent.
Tragically, recent events have once again driven home the harsh and deadly reality of police work. In Oakland and Pittsburgh, law enforcement officers were murdered by criminals who were intent on violence. Sadly, these horrific incidents are not rare. Each year, nearly 60,000 police officers are assaulted. Thanks to luck, training, protective equipment, the bravery of their colleagues, and the skill of medical professionals, the vast majority of these officers survive these assaults. But far, far too many do not. Over the last decade, more than 1,600 police officers have been killed in the line of duty.
This May, as law enforcement officials from around the United States gather to honor those officers who are lost, we must also renew our commitment to reducing the number of officers who are killed in the line of duty.
We must act on a number of fronts. We must do better at keeping our communities safe. We must do better at preventing and reducing gun violence. We must do better at keeping our police officers safe. Through our research and technology programs, our policy initiatives, and our training curriculum, the IACP is striving to meet these challenges to better serve the law enforcement community and those they are sworn to protect.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) is an important ally in this critical effort. In addition to honoring the lives of our fallen comrades, the mission of the memorial is to increase public support for the law enforcement profession by permanently recording and appropriately commemorating the service and the sacrifice of law enforcement officers.
The IACP has always been a strong supporter of the memorial and all that it symbolizes for our profession. IACP members helped to raise $300,000 to build the memorial, and the IACP holds a position on the NLEOMF board of directors.
Today, 18 years after the dedication of the memorial, the NLEOMF is working to construct the National Law Enforcement Museum. The museum, which the IACP strongly supports, is designed to serve as a counterpart to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
The museum will serve as a national center for information on law enforcement history and will also include a research repository devoted to promoting law enforcement safety. The NLEOMF plans to collect all available information on a variety of issues ranging from the importance of high-speed driver training to the latest developments in less-lethal police weaponry to the reasons our officers should wear soft body armor.
In addition, the museum will also educate the general public about the realities of the law enforcement profession. I believe this is a crucial undertaking, for, despite nearly 400 years of service and sacrifice, the law enforcement profession remains a mystery to many citizens. Most citizens have little or no interaction with law enforcement professionals. Unfortunately, the result of this unfamiliarity is often indifference or, worse, a distorted image of the profession based on stereotypes portrayed by the entertainment industry and sensationalized reporting by the media.
I firmly believe that the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and the National Law Enforcement Museum provide us with a unique opportunity to honor the memory and valor of the officers we have lost and also to pay tribute to those who serve our communities and departments every day.
Let us take full advantage of this opportunity to celebrate the lives of the men and women whose hard work, dedication, and sacrifice remain an inspiration to us all.
Let us never forget police officers from around the world who have met the greatest challenges and have demonstrated their courage and tenacity while performing their final police duties. Their deaths are not in vain if we who remain behind continue our mission and carry the memories of these heroes in our hearts and continue to tell their stories of bravery to their children, to their children’s children, and to all who will listen. ■