Wreathlaying Day ceremony commemorates the 1991 dedication of national monument to fallen officers. Use VIDEO BAR on the right to watch video from the event.
Washington, DC — With U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey leading the tributes, loved ones and colleagues of law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice gathered in the nation's capital Wednesday to mark the 17th anniversary of the dedication of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Attorney General Mukasey joined Jennifer Thacker, national president of Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), in laying a wreath, and surviving family members and law enforcement officials placed roses at the center medallion of the Memorial in honor of America's fallen officers.
Created as the nation's monument to law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial was dedicated on October 15, 1991. President George H.W. Bush led the dedication ceremony.
"It took two centuries of service and sacrifice before our nation came together and built a memorial to honor the law enforcement profession and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice," said Craig W. Floyd, chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), the DC-based nonprofit that operates the Memorial. "It is certainly appropriate, on this anniversary of the Memorial's dedication, to come to these hallowed grounds and pay tribute to those who have fallen and salute the 900,000 dedicated men and women who continue to serve and protect our communities and our nation," he said.
The Memorial includes the names of all known U.S. law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, dating back to the first recorded officer death, in May 1792, of New York City Deputy Sheriff Isaac Smith. At the Memorial's dedication in 1991, 12,668 names were engraved on its walls. Today, there are 18,274.
One of those names is Brandon Thacker, an investigator with the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. On April 16, 1998, Investigator Thacker was shot and killed as he traveled in a caravan of agents heading to an undercover assignment. His widow, Jennifer Thacker, has emerged as a leader in the law enforcement survivor movement, having been elected C.O.P.S. national president earlier this year.
"The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is critical to ensuring that Americans never forget or disregard the sacrifices made by our law enforcement officers and their families every year," said Ms. Thacker. "This memorial is especially significant to law enforcement's surviving families, assuring that their officer's ultimate sacrifice will be forever remembered and forever honored," she added.
The 2008 Wreathlaying Ceremony comes at a time when officer fatalities are on the decline nationally — a dramatic reversal from 2007, when officer deaths rose 20 percent. Preliminary data from the NLEOMF show that during the first nine months of the year, 106 local, state and federal officers lost their lives in the performance of duty, a 25 percent reduction when compared with the same period of 2007.
The annual Wreathlaying Day pays special tribute to law enforcement officers from the DC area and federal agencies who made the ultimate sacrifice during the past 12 months. This year's ceremony honored 17 officers from Maryland, Virginia and several federal agencies:
• Maryland State Police: Trooper First Class Mickey Lippy, September 28, 2008
• Maryland Transportation Authority: Corporal Courtney Brooks, January 1, 2008
• Prince George's County (MD) Police Department: Sergeant Richard Findley, June 27, 2008
• Smithsburg (MD) Police Department: Officer Christopher Nicholson, December 19, 2007
• Chesapeake (VA) Police Department: Detective Jarrod Shivers, January 17, 2008
• Fredericksburg (VA) Police Department: Officer Todd Bahr, June 5, 2008
• Stafford County (VA) Sheriff's Office: Deputy Sheriff Jason Mooney, October 19, 2007
• Virginia Beach (VA) Police Department: Detective Michael Phillips, August 7, 2008
• U.S. Border Patrol: Senior Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar, January 19, 2008
• Bureau of Indian Affairs: Criminal Investigator Denise Phoenix, February 14, 2008
• U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Border Patrol Agent Jarod Dittman, March 30, 2008
• Drug Enforcement Administration: Supervisory Special Agent Thomas Byrne, August 30, 2008
• Federal Bureau of Prisons: Correctional Officer Jose Rivera, June 20, 2008
• Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations, U.S. Department of Agriculture: Officer Kristine Fairbanks, September 20, 2008
• Office of Special Investigations, U.S. Air Force: Special Agent Thomas Crowell, Special Agent Nathan Schuldheiss, and Special Agent David Wieger, November 1, 2007
The names of all officers who have died in the line of duty during 2008 will be engraved on the Memorial next spring. They will be officially dedicated on the Memorial during the 21st Annual Candlelight Vigil on May 13, 2009.