Reflections on National Police Week: The Nobility of Law Enforcement Careers

In 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed May 15th as National Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the calendar week in which May 15th falls as National Police Week. This year, National Police Week is May 13-19, and it is dedicated to honor the memory of all law enforcement officers who have given their lives in the line of duty. According to the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), in 2011 the number of line of duty deaths of law enforcement officers spiked to 166, which is the largest number of officers killed in the last 10 years.

The principal organizers of National Police Week are:

  • National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), which sponsors the annual Candlelight Vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
  • Fraternal Order of Police/Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary (FOP/FOPA), which organizes the Peace Officers Memorial Day Service at the U.S. Capitol.
  • Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), which holds the National Police Survivors' Conference.

A joint effort of these organizations and hundreds of law enforcement agencies throughout the nation sheds light on the inherent dangers with police work and recognizes the victims who have fallen in the line of duty. Further, recognition is also given to the victims, families who must heal in the aftermath of a line of duty death.

On occasion, we may hear the news about a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty, but at no time was it more evident than on September 11, 2001. Many of us can vividly recall the news coverage, the television replays of planes crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and the subsequent panic and devastation in New York City. It was surreal to see the collapse of the towers knowing there were police officers and other emergency services personnel dying in those buildings while trying to save others.

It’s important to realize that police officers make a difference every day.  They are part of a heroic profession that few people can do. No matter what one’s position in any police organization, there is nobility that exists like no other. As we enter into National Police Week, please reflect on this and be proud of those who put their lives on the line for us. Some have given their lives. Everyday many risk their lives willingly; knowing that at anytime the supreme sacrifice might be asked of them. Therein lies the true nobility of the profession.

For more information about National Police Week and the departments in your area supporting memorial activities, contact your local law enforcement agency or the organizations listed below.

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Ron Harper is the IL/WI Criminal Justice Program Coordinator at Rasmussen College in Rockford, Illinois. He has worked in the law enforcement field for over 35 years, and holds an MS in Public Administration from DePaul University with a focus on Law Enforcement Management. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command.

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