Police Week marked


The observant among you will notice that, this week, all members of the Kearny Police Department will be wearing a black mourning band across their badges. And the flag above KPD headquarters on Laurel Ave. will be flying at half-staff.

Has there has been a death in the family of the Finest? In truth, there have been 20,789 deaths, 128 of them in 2015.

The symbols of mourning are in honor of National Police Week, observed annually beginning each May 15 — National Peace Officers Memorial Day — and commemorated with services and ceremonies in Washington, D.C., attended by tens of thousands of law enforcement officers. The dates were proclaimed by President John F. Kennedy and established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962.

Although National Police Week 2016 did not begin officially until Sunday, on Saturday night a candlelight vigil honoring fallen officers was held on the National Mall with an estimated 20,000 people participating. 

The National Law Enforcement Memorial in the capital is engraved with the names of 20,789 officers who have died in the line of duty since the country’s founding. This week, 252 names will be added. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page (odmp.org), that list includes 128 deaths last year.

Four of those deceased were from New Jersey: Det. John Scott Stevens of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, Jan. 21, 2015; Cpl. Scott R. Thompson, Manchester Township PD, April 10; N.J. State Trooper Anthony A. Raspa, May 30; and Trooper Eli M. McCarson, Dec. 17.

Details on their service histories and deaths — along with those of the other 124 line-of-duty deaths from 2015 — can be found at the above-mentioned web page.

 As for the apparent discrepancy between the 2015 total and the 252 names being added to the memorial, the explanation is: research. Individuals across America who are committed to honoring fallen officers continue to pore over departmental and historical records to uncover the identities of those who may have been forgotten or somehow overlooked.

And how many U.S. law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty this year? The current tally is 35. Considering the real and present dangers they face, the number could very well have grown by the time you read this.

As KPD Chief John Dowie told us, “Already this year, there has been more than a 50% increase in firearms-related deaths compared to 2015.”

The most recent casualty was Det. Brad D. Lancaster of the Kansas City (Kan.) PD, fatally shot May 9 by a suspect he was pursuing. On a memorial webpage dedicated to Lancaster, there is the following message, posted May 15 by a retired California police captain:

“Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Vaya con Dios, Detective.”

 In a letter Dowie sent to his officers in advance of the 2015 National Police Week, the chief noted that, while that year’s commemoration “was cursed from the get-go by the tragic deaths of NYPD Officer Brian Moore and Hattiesburg, Miss., Officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate, it only underscores what we already know, we never get a day off or a minute to be off-guard …” (Deen and Tate were killed May 9, 2015, during a traffic stop; Moore was mortally wounded May 2 while in his patrol car in Queens.)

No matter in which of The Observer towns you reside, you might spare some special thoughts and prayers this week for your law enforcement officers who protect and serve.

 In conclusion, I’d like to share a personal story.

Not long ago, I stopped at a convenience store in a small suburban N.J. community. As I was leaving, I saw a local police car enter the lot. When the officer exited the vehicle, I told him, “I’d just like to say, ‘Thank you.’”

 Even though he was a complete stranger, he didn’t have to ask, “For what?” He extended his hand and said, “Thank YOU. We really appreciate that.” 

 The two of us had a very brief chat, and then I bid him goodbye, with a sincere, “Stay safe.”

And he thanked me again. 

 It wasn’t until I was getting into my car that I realized: This officer, probably on routine patrol on a quiet afternoon in a quiet little town, had been wearing a bulletproof vest.

 Blessed are the peacemakers …

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