by Harry Valentine
Some will remember the week of January 16th as just another week. Working, family obligations, meetings, playoff football, or some other activity or event that is imprinted on your mind. For me the memory is the funeral of a local police officer killed in the line of duty and the eleven others nationwide who were shot in a one week period. I find it a sad commentary on society that those who dedi- cate themselves to protect the public while guaranteeing its freedoms could be shot and killed on the streets they patrol or in a station house as they prepare for their shifts. It wasn’t that long ago we were shocked at the murder of four officers in a coffee shop in Washington State, the killing of two officers in Pitts- burg, Los Angeles, and Florida. Unfortunately the list goes on and on. The media will explain how the officers died. Of greater importance, and a story told with less frequency, is how they lived and with even less frequency, how they will be remembered. In October of 1961 President John F. Kennedy and the United States Congress proclaimed May 15th as Police Memorial Day. It is a time as stated by President George W. Bush, “To pay tribute to the local, State, and Federal law enforcement officers who serve and protect us with cour- age and dedication. These observances also remind us of the ongoing need to be vigilant against all forms of crime, especially to acts of ex- treme violence and terrorism.” In Washington D.C., Police Week will take place May 13th through the 16th. There will be services, vigils, and events all designed to respect and honor those and their families who have given so much to insure public order, preserve domestic rights, and maintain the freedoms which are the foundation of our society. Locally there will be services and memorials. The POAM will be in Washington D.C. for Police Week. Police Week is a worthwhile and memorable expression. However, not everyone can make the trip. For those of us who aren’t in Washington we should also observe May 15th. We should attend or organize a local service and request the leaders of our agency take a leadership role in that endeavor. Leadership starts at the front and progresses to the back. Let us work with diligence, dedi- cation, and honor to see that those who have given so much are remem- bered. It is a time to educate and remind the public of the sacrifices made on their behalf. More important is to comfort the families of the fallen, letting them know their loved ones will be remembered and their loss is our loss. We are not public servants. We are law enforcement officers, correc- tions officers, fire fighters, EMS workers, and dispatchers. We do not serve the public. We are entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the rights of individuals, maintaining public order, and keeping society safe from the dangers our citizens do not have the wherewithal, ability, or desire to address. In remembering our comrades let us not conduct our affairs and dis- charge our duties in a manner that would violate that public trust. We should not be held to a higher standard, we should set the standard. We do this by taking care of our own and remembering them in a way that tells the public we will not forget those who have gone before us and what they died to uphold.