In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed Public Law 87-726 designating May as Peace Officer’s Memorial Day, and the week in which May 15 falls as National Police Week. The law was amended by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Public Law 103-322, signed by President Bill Clinton, directing that the flag of the United States be at half-staff on all government buildings on May 15 each year. While the actual date changes from year to year, National Police Week is always the calendar week, beginning on Sunday, which includes May 15.
It was not until May 15, 1982, that the first National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day Service was held. Washington, DC activities during National Police Week now includes the annual Candlelight Vigil at the Nnational Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and COP’s National Police Survivor’s Seminars, as well as, the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day Service. The National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day Service on May 15th draws thousands from all across the nation. The National Police Survivors’ Seminars offer peer-support and professional counselors to assist survivors as they move along their path of grief. Between 140 and 160 Law Enforcement Officers die in the line of duty each year. Every 2 1/2 days another family joins the COPS organization.
Every 57 hours an officer is killed in the United States. For the year 2001, there were 233 officers killed in the line of duty and 480 officers will be added to the National Memorial Washington, DC, which includes 71 Officers who died in the September 11th terrorist attacks.
The level of public support and appreciation for our law enforcement officers has increased dramatically since September 11th. The incredible bravery and self-less sacrifice that our fellow officers showed on September 11th has been an inspiration for law enforcement officers across our nation to ensure that we provide the very best protection and service for our communities and to ensure that we are equipped and ready to provide that protection in their hour of need. The past year has been terribly bittersweet for the law enforcement community. Our officers and families have sacrificed so much, but never have they preformed better or made our nation prouder.