Thursday, September 25, 2008

"I've been shot. But I'm okay...."

By Kevin Morison

"I've been shot. But I'm okay. I think the vest got it."

Those are the chilling words Alexandria (VA) Police Officer Kyle Russell called in on his radio Tuesday night soon after he had pulled over a man for driving erratically on Interstate 395 outside Washington, DC. The driver pulled a .45-caliber handgun and shot the officer through the passenger side window. Officer Russell, who has been on the force 3 1/2 years, was struck in the upper torso, but the body armor he was wearing absorbed most of the impact. Officer Russell was treated and released at a local hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. The gunman apparently committed suicide a short time later; investigators believe he had previously murdered his wife.

Alexandria Police Chief David P. Baker was direct in his assessment of the attack on Officer Russell. "Bottom line is: No vest, he's a goner. It was a .45-caliber," he told the Washington Post.

The IACP/DuPont Kevlar Survivors' Club reports that since 1987, more than 3,000 individuals working in law enforcement have survived both ballistic and non-ballistic incidents because they were wearing body armor. With Officer Russell, they can add one more heroic member to the club.

Read more and watch video on -- Officer Russell in his own words and a report on how safety vests work.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sadness, Anger and Disbelief over the Loss of another Philadelphia Police Officer

by Kevin Morison

Mayor Nutter, Commissioner Ramsey and other Philadelphia Police officials express their outrage over the shooting death of Officer McDonald. Calling the recent rash of attacks on officers something he has never seen in 40 years of policing, Ramsey questioned why cop killer Daniel Giddings, who had a history of disruptive behavior behind bars, had been released from prison before completing his full term. Police also expect to bring charges against a South Carolina man who purchased the murder weapon and several other guns (one of which was used in an earlier robbery) in what appeared to be a "straw purchase." Read the Philadelphia Inquirer story and watch video of Mayor Nutter and Commissioner Ramsey.

In the 14 years I worked for Chuck Ramsey – first with the Chicago Police Department and then with the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC – I was always impressed by his insight and eloquence. Ramsey, who is now the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, just has an uncanny knack for knowing what to say and when to say it.

So when I emailed him on Tuesday afternoon to express condolences over the fatal shooting of Philadelphia Highway Patrol Officer Patrick McDonald – the third Philadelphia Police officer killed in the line of duty this year – Ramsey’s reply was uncharacteristically brief. His message was one word: “Bad.”

Nola Joyce, another Ramsey protégé from Chicago and DC who is working with the Commissioner in Philadelphia, was only slightly more verbose – and equally haunting. “Words can’t describe the feeling here,” she wrote. “It is sadness, anger, disbelief all rolled into one. It is not good.”

The attacks on members of the Philadelphia Police Department over the past two-and-a-half years have been shocking not just for their frequency – five officers killed in the line of duty and literally dozens more fired upon and, in several cases, injured – but even more so for their brazenness.

Tuesday’s incident took place in the middle of a sunny afternoon in a North Philadelphia neighborhood just a few blocks from Temple University. That’s when Officer McDonald became engaged in a gun battle with a wanted felon who had only recently been released from prison for a 1998 robbery and aggravated assault conviction. A warrant had been issued a week earlier for a subsequent altercation with police. During the gun battle, Officer McDonald was shot. As he lay wounded on the street, the 27-year-old killer reportedly stood over Officer McDonald and fired several more times.

An “execution,” in the words of Homicide Captain James Clark.

A fellow member of the elite Highway Patrol, Officer Richard Bowes, was shot and injured upon responding to Officer McDonald’s call for help. During the ensuing foot pursuit and gun battle with police, the offender was killed, clutching a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun as he went down.

McDonald’s killing came just weeks after Officer Isabel Nazario was killed after her patrol car was struck by a stolen SUV being driven recklessly by a 16-year-old boy. On May 3 of this year, Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski was gunned down by one of three bank robbers after a Saturday morning stickup at a branch bank inside a local supermarket. Last October, Officer Chuck Cassidy was fatally shot at point-blank range during a robbery at a Dunkin’ Donuts on Officer Cassidy’s beat. And in May 2006, Officer Gary Skerski was shot to death outside a bar when he and his partner interrupted a holdup.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter captured the outrage of the Police Department and the community when he told the local media, “I do not know what is going on in the minds of some of these individuals out here. When they come upon a Philadelphia police officer … somehow, they believe they can engage in gunfights with us.”

The Philadelphia Police Department is truly hurting from these outrageous attacks on its officers. But the really amazing thing is that, despite the shock, despite the anger, despite the grief and even uncertainty enveloping the department right now – there are, at this very moment, literally hundreds of amazingly dedicated law enforcement officers out patrolling the streets of the city. Men and women who got up today, put on their uniforms, pinned on their badges and hit the streets so that citizens and visitors in the City of Brotherly Love could go about their lives in relative safety and less fear.

The people of Philadelphia owe the members of their Police Department abiding gratitude and respect at all times. But right now, in this time of extreme heartbreak for the city and the police, all of us would do well to stop for a moment, contemplate the events of Philadelphia, mourn their fallen heroes and send out our hopes and prayers for better, more peaceful days ahead.

Read Craig Floyd’s tribute to Philadelphia Police officers killed in the line of duty throughout the city’s history.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fallen Officers Remembered for Hispanic Heritage Month

Washington, DC - In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, leaders of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and the Hispanic law enforcement community gathered Monday in Washington, DC, to pay tribute to the 637 Hispanic law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history. The wreathlaying ceremony took place at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, where the names of all law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice are engraved.

Joining NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd in placing a wreath at the Memorial’s center medallion were Plainfield (NJ) Police Detective Edwin Maldanado, East Coast Vice President of the National Latino Peace Officers Association (NLPOA); DC Metropolitan Police Lieutenant Juan Espinal, President of the NLPOA Washington, DC, Metro Chapter; and Special Agent Zinnia James of the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, representing the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association.

“The walls of this Memorial are inscribed with the names of law enforcement officers of myriad races, ethnicities and national origins – all of them heroes who made their communities safer and our nation more secure,” said Mr. Floyd. “Today, as our country begins its observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, we come to this sacred ground to pay our respects to the 637 Hispanic law enforcement officers who died in service to the community.”

Added Detective Maldanado, “The NLPOA and our National President Roy Garivey are honored to partner with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. We come to Washington, DC, to honor not only the service and sacrifice of Latino and Hispanic officers at the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, but to honor all American law enforcement officers who have given the ultimate sacrifice to keep our communities safe.”

As a demonstration of its commitment to the law enforcement profession, the NLPOA recently pledged $100,000 to the capital campaign to build the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum, adjacent to the National Memorial in the nation’s capital.

NLEOMF research records indicate that the first Hispanic American law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty was Joaquin De La Torre, a deputy sheriff with the Monterey County (CA) Sheriff's Department. On November 10, 1855, Deputy De La Torre and two other members of his department were shot and killed while attempting to make an arrest. He was one of only three Hispanic law enforcement to die in the line of duty during the 19th Century.

During the first half of the 20th Century, a total of 90 Hispanic officers made the ultimate sacrifice. As the Hispanic American population of the United States grew as a whole, so did the number of Hispanics serving in law enforcement – and the sacrifices endured by these brave men and women. From 1950 through 1999, 407 Hispanic officers died in the line of duty.

Since the year 2000, more than 140 Hispanic American officers have made the ultimate sacrifice, including 20 in 2007. Over the last decade, 1 in 10 law enforcement fatalities in the United States has involved a Hispanic American officer.

Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins on September 15, is a nationwide celebration of the contributions of people of Hispanic heritage to the history of the United States.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 Wreathlaying Ceremony

Staff and supporters of the NLEOMF gathered at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial early Thursday morning to remember and honor the 72 law enforcement officers who died during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—the deadliest day in U.S. law enforcement history.

With cool, clear skies overhead, staff read a roll call of the names of all 72 officers who were killed that day—71 at the World Trade Center in New York City and one, Richard Guadagno, of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, who is believed to be among the heroes who commandeered United Flight 93 from the terrorists, forcing it to crash in Shanksville, PA, before it could reach its intended target and claim many more lives.

Staff then placed a memorial wreath behind Panels 9W through 22W of the Memorial, where the names of the 72 officers are proudly engraved on Line 23. As participants paused to reflect on the sacrifice of the law enforcement that day, Berneta Spence, NLEOMF Director of Research, and Lynn Lyons-Wynne, Senior Director for Memorial Programs, talked about some of the stories behind the names.

As the brief ceremony came to a conclusion, Chaplain David Duffany of Prince George’s County (MD) stepped forward to salute each of the panels adorned with a rose. Just then, the sound of bagpipes could be heard from the 9-11 remembrance ceremony at the nearby Washington Field Office of the FBI.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Relections on 9-11

By Craig W. Floyd
NLEOMF Chairman and CEO

Craig Floyd authored this essay on the events of September 11, 2001, one year after the terrorists struck our nation. His reflections remain poignant on this, the seventh anniversary of 9-11, the deadliest day in U.S. law enforcement history.

It has been a year since 9-11, and like everyone else I cannot help but recall some of the powerful memories of that horrific day and the months and events that followed. Strangely, many of the memories about 9-11 and its aftermath are not all bad ... the heroes; the patriotism that was ignited when those towers fell; and the public's outpouring of support for our public safety officers ... just to name a few. But, unfortunately, none of us will ever think of 9-11 without remembering the thousands of lives that were lost, the pain and grief of the survivors, and the physical and emotional trauma experienced by the rescuers.

Sitting in my office two blocks from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on the morning of September 11, I remember watching the horror unfold on television. But, at about 9:30 a.m., before the towers collapsed and the full gravity of the catastrophe was understood, I took a previously scheduled conference call to discuss the progress we were making on the National Law Enforcement Museum. Some of the project team members had not yet heard the news and we began filling them in. Suddenly, one of them, driving in a car near the Pentagon reported that smoke was now billowing from that symbol of military might. Moments later, the television beamed the pictures of the Pentagon on fire. The conference call ended. There was now no question ... America was under attack.

The rest of the day is more of a blur. I remember my wife coming to our office from a meeting downtown. She was in tears, emotionally devastated by what she was seeing and the reports she had heard. She was worried about our children and a cousin who worked high up in the World Trade Center (thankfully, the cousin was stuck on a subway train when the attacks occurred and she would be fine). My wife walked several blocks to our office, across the national mall, with the Pentagon smoke filling the air, and the nation's capital in a state of panic. Reports of other planes on their way to destroy more buildings and more lives filled the airwaves. No more planes came, but plenty of damage was already done and hours later, Washington, D.C. was a ghost town.

A week later, I made a trip to New York City at the invitation of the New York City PBA. I was taken to "Ground Zero" and saw the devastation up close and personal. The site was eerily silent. Most of the rescuers had on masks to protect against the smoke-filled air. The towers were now small mountains of rubble. Only a few stories of the metal facades of the buildings still stood, appearing like tombstones to the thousands of people who had died. We tied a Memorial flag, with the shield and rose logo, to one of the railings nearby and I was told recently that the flag remained at Ground Zero throughout the rescue and recovery effort as a well-earned symbol of honor and remembrance for the 71 law enforcement officers who died there on 9-11.

I'll never forget what Scott Williamson, my friend and New York City police escort, said to me that day. He proudly recalled several of his Bronx police colleagues who died that day, including: Sgt. John Coughlin; Officer Stephen Driscoll; Officer Vincent Danz; Officer Jerome Dominguez; Officer John Perry; and Officer Walter "Wally" Weaver. Scott mentioned that he was a close friend with several of the missing officers. In fact, Scott said he was planning to go on a fly-fishing trip with Wally Weaver in October. He commented that Steve Driscoll "was always the first one through the door" on dangerous calls, and that he always attended the Widows and Orphans Christmas Party to help make sure the families of the fallen were cared for. John Perry's story should make every officer a little prouder to wear the badge. Scott told me that this veteran officer was putting in his retirement papers a few blocks away at Police Headquarters when he heard about the attack. He ran over to the World Trade Center to help save lives. He was never seen again.

But as sad as he was about losing his friends and colleagues, he was equally proud of what they had done. He explained that no matter how far away these officers might have been when the call for help went out, they were determined to be there so they could help save lives. They were right where they wanted to be, doing exactly what they wanted to do when they died, he said. It was a comforting thought.

Most of all, I will never forget the ride out of Ground Zero. I was riding in a police cruiser when we neared a crowded intersection filled with citizens who were applauding and cheering loudly. Some held signs saying, "We love our police and firefighters." It was a sentiment shared by all Americans at the time.

So much of the rest of the year has been filled with events honoring the heroes of 9-11, and deservedly so. A month after 9-11, we commemorated the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial with a gala event that had been planned long before the terrorist attacks. Obviously, 9-11 received much of our focus that night. Representatives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, and the New York City Police Department attended as our special guests and were treated to thunderous ovations. A Virginia State Trooper named Michael Middleton attended with his wife, representing the heroic rescuers at the Pentagon. Trooper Middleton suffered life threatening injuries when he raced into the burning building just minutes after the crash. He was pulled to safety and rushed to the hospital, where he recovered from his injuries. He and his wife were moved to tears when their turn came to be recognized and thanked that evening for all he had done on 9-11.

Two days later, hundreds of people gathered at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for our 10th anniversary wreathlaying ceremony. Joining us that day were about 30 family members of some of the officers who had died on 9-11. They arrived by bus just moments before the ceremony began and solemnly filed into their seats. A special wreath was placed in honor of their loved ones and they offered their own personal show of remembrance with the placement of red roses on the Memorial's center medallion. Tears were shed that day, but most said they were glad to have made the trip. After all, that Memorial would now have very special meaning to each of them.

December brought with it another special salute to the law enforcement heroes of 9-11. The Olympic Torch Relay scheduled a stop at the Memorial in their honor. Patriotism flooded the site as hundreds stood by and watched as Officer Isaac Hoopii of the Defense Protective Service (the Pentagon Police) proudly carried the Olympic Torch onto the Memorial grounds accompanied by his K-9 dog, and 12 police colleagues. The Pentagon police had saved many lives on 9-11 and they were lucky to escape with their own. Among those there to greet Officer Hoopii was Wayne Sinclair, one of the Pentagon victims who narrowly escaped death thanks to Isaac Hoopii's daring rescue efforts.

In April, a public cermony was held as we began engraving the names of the officers who died on 9-11 onto the Memorial's marble walls. Port Authority Police Chief Joseph Morris was there that day. He stood and watched as his predecessor, Fred Morrone's name, was engraved onto the Memorial, one of 37 Port Authority officers to die that day. New York City Police Officer James Smith saw his wife's name, Moira Smith, etched into the blue-gray marble. He then placed a haunting photo of his wife helping a bloodied victim to safety on 9-11, just moments before she went back into one of the towers to help others. Moira never made it out before the tower she was in collapsed.

On May 13, with some 25,000 people in attendance, a candlelight vigil was held at the Memorial honoring all of America's fallen officers. The names of 480 new additions, including the 72 officers who died on 9-11, were all read aloud. During the ceremony two guests on the dais were given special recognition. Those two Port Authority officers were John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno. They were buried alive when the towers collapsed and witnessed the death of three of their colleagues. They never thought they would make it out alive, but many hours later they were pulled from the rubble in a miraculous rescue. They were, in fact, the last living people to be pulled from the World Trade Center. Their story is all about courage and a will to survive and recover from one of the greatest acts of evil and destruction our nation will ever know. That is the memory I have chosen to remember the most.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Virginia Judge Gets Creative--Sentences Driver to Help Publicize "Move Over" Law

By Kevin Morison

A Fairfax County (VA) judge has come up with a novel sentence for a drunk driver who slammed into a parked Virginia State Police cruiser last April and seriously injured a trooper: 45 days in jail, plus 100 hours helping publicize Virginia’s “Move Over” law that requires drivers to exercise caution around emergency vehicles by the side of the roadway.

The Washington Post reports that Fairfax General District Court Judge Thomas E. Gallahue had recently seen a presentation on Virginia’s Move Over law and decided the campaign could benefit from the help of the 34-year-old driver who was charged with drunk driving in the incident.

The trooper, J.T. Mahalik, had stopped another motorist along I-66 west of Washington, DC, and was sitting in his cruiser with the other driver when David J. Stout of Centreville, VA, rear-ended the cruiser, causing it to burst into flames. Though suffering spinal injuries and burns to his legs, Trooper Mahalik managed to pull to safety the man in his cruiser, who was unconscious by this time, before the cruiser became totally engulfed in flames.

This was the first of three crashes in less than two weeks last spring in which troopers were struck and injured by other drivers. That prompted the State Police to ramp up its enforcement of, and publicity surrounding, the state’s Move Over law … with the help of Judge Gallahue.

State Police spokeswoman Corrine Geller told that Post that the agency “appreciates the opportunity that the judge has afforded us to have other means to educate the public about officer safety.” She said police were considering using Mr. Stout to create a public service announcement for radio or television, or assist troopers with presentations.

Let’s hope others are paying attention to the creative sentencing employed by Judge Gallahue. 2008 is the 11th year in a row in which more law enforcement officers nationwide are being killed in traffic-related incidents than from gunshots or any other single cause of death. Our officers need and deserve all the protection they can get while out on our roadways working to protect the rest of us. Move Over laws are an important step. But there needs to be more public education about the laws—and swift, certain and sometimes creative consequences for those who violate the law and endanger our officers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Roadside Tragedy 7 Years Ago Reminder of the Importance to "Move Over" for Emergency Personnel

By Lt. Gregg Hastings
Oregon State Police

In remembrance of the 7th anniversary of an incident that claimed the lives of two police officers and critically injured a third, police officers around Oregon want motorists to continually be aware of the need to move over when driving near police, firefighters and other emergency personnel working on the side of our roads.

On September 4, 2001, a drowsy driver drove onto the shoulder of northbound Interstate 5 near milepost 243 and struck three officers as they were standing outside of patrol vehicles assisting a family in a disabled van. Oregon State Police (OSP) Senior Trooper Maria Mignano, age 39, and off-duty Albany police officer Jason Hoerauf, age 29, were killed. OSP Sergeant John Burright was critically injured.

That tragic incident led to Oregon's "Move Over" law that has been in effect for five years, helping to keep emergency personnel safe as they work along Oregon roads. The "Move Over" law (ORS 811.147) states that if you are driving up behind or next to any type of emergency vehicle – police car, ambulance or public safety vehicle – working on the roadside with emergency lights flashing, you must:
  • Move over to another lane.
  • If you cannot safely change lanes, you must slow down.
  • In all cases, the driver must try to provide as much room as possible for the emergency vehicle.
Failure to comply with the "Move Over" law can result in a fine up to $355.

In addition to the new law, Oregon Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies have been working to educate as many people as possible of this law with the lofty goal of getting 100% compliance. In addition to stepped up enforcement, the statewide campaign includes new state highway signs, billboards, radio advertisements, transit bus signs, rest area posters and brochures promoting the "Move Over" safety message.

Forty-threestates have passed "Move Over" laws, but a recent study indicates approximately 70 percent of Americans are unaware of this law. According to national and state statistics:
  • More than 700 police officers have been killed in the last ten years when struck while working along highways.
  • Of the 27 OSP troopers who have died in the line of duty, three were hit by cars while stopped on the side of the road.
  • Since 2000, nearly 20 Oregon emergency service workers have been killed or injured while responding to an incident alongside the road.
Additional information and resources are available on ODOT's website.