Police Week - Honoring our Fallen

  • Published
  • By Maj. Mike Jewell
  • 97th Security Forces Squadron commander
Police Week began on October 1, 1962, when President John F. Kennedy Jr. signed a public law, designating May 15 of each year as 'Peace Officers Memorial Day' and the week in which it falls as 'Police Week.' In 1994, President Clinton signed another public law directing that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff on all government buildings on May 15. National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.

It is appropriate that we take time each year to honor our law enforcement professionals. Police work is inherently dangerous. On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States every 53 hours. Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice, to include 461 from Oklahoma and 31 military police officers. So far in 2012, 40 United States police officers have died in the line of duty.

This past Sunday, more than 20,000 people gathered at the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial in our nation's capital to honor the 163 law enforcement officials that were killed in the line of duty in 2011; including one Defender, SrA Nick Alden, assigned to the 48th SFS out of RAF Lakenheath, UK. Nick was killed in Frankfurt, Germany by a lone gunman while enroute to a deployment with 12 of his fellow Defenders, 2 of which were also wounded in the attack. SrA Alden joined 2 Oklahoma heroes on the walls of the memorial: Reserve Deputies Timothy Lowry and Michael Roberts of the Pottawatomie County Sheriff's Office who gave their lives on September 30, 2011. These 3 heroes join the ranks of Altus Police Department Officer Jon Henry Hill who was shot on Sept 7 1934, Jackson County Sherriff's Office Deputy Elmer Carter, shot in the line of duty on Aug 29, 1930 and 34 Oklahoma State Troopers who have given their lives between 1941 and 2010. As we think of these brave officers, I recall an inscription on the memorial wall: "It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived."

There are more than 900,000 law enforcement officers in the US that make up the "thin blue line". The thin blue line has long been a symbol of our nation's law enforcement. The blue represents our police officers and the courage they must find in order to stand in harms way time and time again. The black around it represents their fallen comrades. Every time an officer is killed in the line of duty, it is said that the thin blue line gets just a little bit thinner. The line itself is the strongest symbol and it is the very reason why these men and women choose to serve - it represents the barrier between good and evil, anarchy and civil society, the barrier between the innocent and the predators. In this world, there are wolves and there are sheep...WE are the sheepdog.

The 200+ Altus Defenders are part of nearly 25,000 Defenders charged with protecting and defending our bases from "the wolf"...Fully knowing that each shift they begin could be their last, reminded daily by the names in the hallway listing the 154 fallen Air Police, Security Police and Security Forces members. Like our local, state, and federal comrades, they: hunt the things that go bump in the night, run toward the sound of gunfire and confront those that wish to do us harm. As I look at these sheepdogs and think of those like them, I am reminded of yet another inscription from the national memorial: "In valor there is hope."