This week's blog will be guest hosted by Madison Professional Police Officers Association (MPPOA) President Dan Frei. In light of the fact that Madison and area law enforcement will be commemorating Police Week, I thought it only appropriate that someone who represents our rank and file should have the opportunity to express his thoughts.
Starting on Sunday, May 15th, you may notice MPD officers, or officers from other local agencies, wearing "mourning" bands (either black or black with a thin blue line) across their badges. The bands are worn to honor the memory of fellow officers who have died, often in the line of duty. They are a visible symbol of the solidarity that all officers share. The reason you see them being worn this week is in observance of what is known as "police week." Nationally, the Peace Officer's Memorial Day is on May 15th; dating back to 1962 when President John F Kennedy signed a proclamation commemorating this day on an annual basis. In Madison, this date kicks off a week of honoring, recognizing and remembering those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Each year, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world, along with "survivor families" (family members who have lost a loved one in the line of duty) gather in Washington D.C. to honor the memory of more than 20,000 officers. In Madison, the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial was dedicated and yearly tributes began in 1991. Our State's memorial is located on the Capitol square on the corner of Pinckney and Mifflin streets, and contains the names of over 260 law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.
Each name, whether in Washington D.C. or Madison, is a man or woman who died while serving their community. These officers are our sons and daughters, husbands, wives, partners, parents, family members, and friends. These are individuals who wanted to help in making a difference and in protecting lives. These officers pursued their passions and accepted a noble call of selfless service. Each swore an oath and made a commitment; to protect and serve, to stand in harms way, and to be vigilant in standing up for individual rights, constitutional liberties, and placing the safety of others ahead of their own needs. Every day these guardians went to a locker, donned a bullet-resistant vest, and left their own families and comfort zones in striving to serve and protect. While others may have defaulted to their instincts of running away from danger, these brave individuals ran directly toward an unknowing and uncertain environment. These individuals accepted the risk and inherit dangers that are a part of this job. They did so willingly, and not for wealth or glory, but because their sense of duty required nothing less.
As officers, one of our first and foremost lessons learned from our instructors in the academy to our veteran mentor officers, is to make sure that everyone goes home at the end of their shift. We owe that to our families and friends who stand beside us in this pursuit of nobility. This year 252 officers, 123 of whom were killed in 2015, who did not make it home to their families will be added to the over 20,000 names already on the National Law Enforcement Memorial. For those who have ever been to a law enforcement funeral, it is at once surreal, honorable and incredibly sad to see our parents, partners and children struggling through unimaginable grief. Yet, these strong and resolute members who comprise our support infrastructure still muster their words of pride and thankfulness in spite of their personal loss.
To these families, we promise that their loved ones personal sacrifice will never be forgotten or adequately repaid. This week is an example of our continued remembrance of these lives who made a difference. Our nation and our communities are blessed to have had lives who voluntarily took a solemn vow to do whatever is necessary, even to the point of sacrificing themselves in order to safeguard the freedoms which we all hold dear. We are blessed to have parents, families, and children who support their loved ones in answering this higher calling, knowing that there is always the uncertainty that one day their "cop" might not make it home.
So this week, when you see the display of a mourning band, take a moment to reflect and to thank the officer you know or encounter that their service is greatly appreciated and their fallen comrades will never be forgotten.