ach year, during the third week of May, the Fort Smith, Arkansas, Police Department holds an annual memorial service for its officers who have lost their lives while in the line of duty. The memorial service is held near the front entrance of the department, near a monument that contains the names of 10 lost heroes. The service is in remembrance of lost-but-not-forgotten peace officers. Officers in attendance are dressed in either suits or Class A “dress” uniform. The immediate family members of the fallen and honored officers are invited to attend, in addition to various community leaders and officials. During the memorial week, officers wear a mourning shroud covering their badges at all times.
Photo courtesy of Adam Holland, former Sergeant, Criminal Investigations Division, Cybercrime Unit, Fort Smith, Arkansas, Police Department
The service begins with a welcome from the mayor of Fort Smith, followed by the Presentation of Colors with the assistance of the department’s Honor Lodge 39, presents a memorial wreath and places it onto the monument. Usually, the organizer of the memorial service or a volunteer will give roll call. At that time, the name of each officer listed on the monument is announced, followed by the chiming of a bell.
Chief Kevin Lindsey introduces the selected or volunteer keynote speaker for the ceremony. The speaker stresses the importance of law enforcement officers to a community and gives thanks for their commitment to protect and serve. The speech focuses on remembering the families of the officers who lost their lives while serving the community they loved.
After the keynote speaker, the traditional 21-gun salute is performed by the Fort Smith Police Department’s Honor Guard. A talented, local musician performs “Taps” in the background. Following Taps, and in the distance, a local bagpiper can be heard playing Amazing Grace. The music is designed to sound as if moving toward and then away from the crowd. The ceremony is concluded by a benediction by a local clergyman or chaplain.
A View from the Heart
A tradition in Fort Smith, Arkansas, that gives citizens a view from their patrolmen’s dashboards ultimately gave them a view from their patrolmen’s hearts. For years, men and women going through the annual Leadership Fort Smith program1 have completed a 10-hour ride-along with a law enforcement officer from the Fort Smith Police Department. The 25 members of each year’s class all have a desire to serve the community and gain exposure to current local issues and leadership skills. The ride-along is an important outside assignment for their educational sessions on law enforcement and the judicial system.
“Before the class members participate in the ride-along, they secretly dread it, because riding with a police officer for such a long time brings so many questions of the unknown,” says Leadership Fort Smith Executive Director Julie Moncrief. “They are anxious because they don’t know what to expect.”
After the ride-along, each class member turns into a “new biggest fan” of the police force, Moncrief says. “They come away with a deep respect for the profession, for the person they rode with, for the whole police department. They’ve seen the professional, caring, human side of our police officers and how hard they work, and they become deeply honored to be served and protected by them.”
Heartbreak was an added resulting emotion from the ride-along experience for the Leadership Fort Smith Class of 2007. One member had the honor of accompanying 33-year-old Officer Daniel C. Martinez, who two weeks afterward was shot and killed while helping a mother retrieve her child from a residence.
Photo courtesy of Adam Holland, former Sergeant, Criminal Investigations Division, Cybercrime Unit, Fort Smith, Arkansas,
Shock and grief filled the Leadership class, and its members decided their team project would be to honor Officer Martinez and all other fallen officers—past, present, and future—of Sebastian County. Two members of the class had close ties to law enforcement: one was the vice president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 39, and another was the Sebastian County prosecuting attorney.
After raising more than $9,000, and contracting with Cotner Monuments of Fort Smith, the class gave the community a granite fallen officer memorial, which stands prominently in front of the new county courthouse, paid for by citizen contributions. The gift to the Fort Smith community draws daily attention and directs reverence to the police and to fallen officers.
On May 15, 2009, members of the community joined the class and the Fort Smith Police Department and other law enforcement members to celebrate the new memorial. Its geometric shapes, unique red and black granite, and laser replication of the officers’ badges creates a memorable reminder of the sacrifice made by those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
1For information about Leadership Fort Smith, visit its Web site: www.leadershipfortsmith.com.
Please cite as:
"Police Week in Fort Smith, Arkansas," The Police Chief 77 (May 2010): 25–27,
http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/admin/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=view_article&article_id=2079 (insert access date).