They’re often scorned, ridiculed and under-appreciated. They’re also often our first, last and only line of defense against the dark underbelly of a community, serving as watchdogs, domestic dispute referees and the voice of reason during highly-charged situations and events. They respond to fire calls and car crashes, offer directions to lost motorists and assist during events like parades and funeral processions. They’re a constant and reassuring presence whenever large groups of people are assembled, whether it’s at sporting events or county fairs.
And more often than not, they’re heroes — putting their lives on the line daily to protect and serve the community they represent.
Today (Tuesday) is Peace Officers Memorial Day, so designated by President John F. Kennedy in a proclamation in 1962. The week it falls on has become known as National Police Week, and has been set aside each year to honor and remember those who have served honorably and with distinction as keepers of the peace across the nation, as well as those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
An annual memorial service began in 1982 in Washington, D.C. and featured 120 “survivors and supporters of law enforcement,” according to the National Police Week website. The event has since grown to a week-long event in the nation’s capital, attracting attendees numbering in the thousands; it’s estimated that between 25,000 to 40,000 members of law enforcement and their families participate each year.
Our nation has become a violent one, and officer-involved shootings have become media fodder on a daily basis. In some of these instances, accusations of over-action on the part of law-enforcement personnel is justified; for the most part, however, officers using their weapons in the line of duty is the last resort, reserved for when a resolution of non-lethal force is no longer an option. These incidents often result in loss of life, many times that of the responding officer.
Fifty-three officers have died in the line of duty since the start of 2018, up 4 percent from this time last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Those who have lost their lives will be honored May 15 in front of the U.S. Capitol, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington. On that memorial are the names of 21,541 officers who have died while doing their duty over the years.
Two of those names belong to former Powell officers, former Town Marshal Charles Lewis and former Police Chief Anthony Nelson, who died while serving this community. The Powell Police Department will honor them with a procession to and ceremony at Crown Hill Cemetery on Wednesday afternoon. (See the story on Page 6 of the May 15 edition of the Powell Tribune.) The public is invited.
Whether you attend the ceremony or simply happen to cross paths with an officer, deputy or trooper this week, take a moment to express your appreciation for the men and women who put their lives on the line each day to keep and maintain the peace.