Monday, October 20, 2008

Truly … A Race to Remember

District of Columbia Councilmember Mary Cheh was there, speaking eloquently and passionately about the importance of honoring fallen law enforcement officers and remembering the families they leave behind. Her brother-in-law, Rahway (NJ) Police Officer John Jimmy Burns, was killed in the line of duty in January 1971, his name engraved on Panel 62-West of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

DC Metropolitan Police Sergeant Nicholas Breul and members of his family were there, too. As his department’s historian, Sergeant Breul works to preserve and share the proud history of the lead law enforcement agency in the nation’s capital.

And approximately five dozen members of Session 235 of the FBI National Academy came out as well – law enforcement leaders from across the country who took a break from their studies at the FBI training facility in Quantico, VA, to support a cause they deeply believe in.

For more photos, new video and commentary, check out Elvert Barnes's blog, Freedom.

These were among the approximately 550 people who got up early on Sunday morning, October 19, to participate in the inaugural Race to Remember: the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial 5K, in Washington, DC. Organized by the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC, the race raised thousands of dollars for the NLEOMF and its project to build the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum.

During the pre-race ceremony, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier, NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig Floyd and Councilmember Cheh thanked the runners and wished them well on their 5K run, which began and ended at the Memorial and took runners past the U.S. Capitol, Library of Congress, National Mall and other landmarks. Chief Lanier noted that three of her assistant chiefs – Pat Burke, Al Durham and Pete Newsham – were among the many MPD members and their families who participated.

After the race, Craig Floyd handed out awards to the top runners in 10-year age categories and to the top three male and female runners overall. Andrew Duncan, of Las Vegas, NV, ran the course in 15 minutes-57 seconds, beating out Antonio Eppolito, of Albuquerque, NM, by just two seconds. Demonstrating that age is no barrier to physical fitness, the top three male runners were all in the 40-49 age group.

The top female runner was Dionis Gauvin, of Alexandria, VA, who had an outstanding time of 18 minutes-30 seconds. Craig noted a special connection to two of the top runners. His executive assistant at the NLEOMF, Mary Brown, was the top female runner in the age 60 and over age category, and his wife, Veronica Floyd, placed second among women in the 50-59 age category. (Click here for complete race results.)

But for the vast majority of runners on Sunday, it was not about race times and awards. It was about fun, exercise, fellowship and, above all, supporting a great cause. The NLEOMF is in the middle of an $80 million capital campaign to build the National Law Enforcement Museum. The Museum will be located adjacent to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC’s Judiciary Square. The money raised in the inaugural Race to Remember will help meet that goal. And Chief Lanier, Assistant Chief Burke and Officer Marcello Muzzatti, who coordinated the race, plan to make it an annual event.

The NLEOMF thanks all of those who participated in the Race to Remember, especially our generous sponsors: Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Labor Committee; Fraternal Order of Police, Jerrard F. Young Lodge #1; Police Federal Credit Union; and District of Columbia Protective Services. We couldn’t have done it without your and the help of all of our supporters.

Wreathlaying Video Now Online!

NEW VIDEO! Use the VIDEO BAR on the right side of the page to watch footage of the Wreathlaying Ceremony, or go to YouTube profile: TheNLEOMF.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

AG Mukasey, Law Enforcement Officers and Survivors Mark the 17th Anniversary of Memorial

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.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Crime May be Down, but Police Chiefs Still Worry about Officer Safety

By Kevin Morison

Approximately 175 police chiefs, sheriffs, mayors, law enforcement policymakers and practitioners from across the country came together in Washington, DC, yesterday to discuss the state of crime in the U.S. and to help map out a crime-fighting agenda for the future. Organized by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), the National Violent Crime Summit covered a wide range of topics, including some issues related to law enforcement officer safety.

Executive Director Chuck Wexler discussed the results of PERF’s analysis of preliminary crime statistics in approximately 200 jurisdictions. In general, the study showed that violent crime appeared to decline during the first half of 2008, although Mr. Wexler noted that the statistics were collected before the full impact of the current financial crisis was felt.

Even though overall crime may be down, a number of chiefs cited violence against their officers as a continuing concern. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey reported that assaults against his officers are up 18 percent this year and that four officers have been killed violently over the past 12 months, including one officer shot with a high-powered SKS rifle.

Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who also serves as PERF’s president, cited the growing threat of assault weapons in south Florida. He said that 22 percent of the murders in his city last year were committed with AK-47s and that two south Florida law enforcement officers were killed with assault rifles last year. Similarly, Police Superintendent Warren Riley said 15 percent of the homicides committed in New Orleans now involve assault weapons, and he, too, worries about the impact on officer safety of so many high-powered weapons on the streets.

Several chiefs sounded a two-pronged alarm about the current financial crisis. On the one hand, they worry that as more people lose their jobs, both property and violent crime may rise. At the same time, tight municipal budgets could force some departments to cut the number of sworn officers, thus exposing safety concerns for their personnel.

As part of its survey of American cities, PERF asked police executives to identify their top programmatic and funding priorities for the next administration in Washington. Yesterday’s summit also included presentations by the two major Presidential campaigns concerning their views on crime control. George Terwilliger, deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, represented the campaign of Senator John McCain. Eric Holder, deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, represented the campaign of Senator Barack Obama.

Later this year, PERF plans to publish a report on the National Violent Crime Summit, part of its 2008 Critical Issues in Policing Series, which is supported by Motorola. Based in Washington, DC, PERF is one of the founding board member organizations of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Maryland Enacts New Protections for Transit Officers

The state of Maryland has taken an important step to help protect Metro Transit Police officers within its jurisdiction. Effective October 1, it became a felony under Maryland law to assault a Metro Transit Police officer. Previously, such crimes were considered a misdemeanor offense.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed the legislation, which includes Metro Transit Police officers under the state’s Law Enforcement Officer Protection Act.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is the public transit system that operates subways and buses in the District of Columbia and surrounding areas of Maryland and Virginia. Assaulting a Metro Transit Police officer was already considered a felony in DC and Virginia.

“We’re pleased to see this new law go into effect. The safety of our officers is of utmost concern. We hope that the law deters assaults on Metro Transit police officers and keeps offenders out of the Metro system,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn.

The move comes as attacks on all Metro employees seem to be on the rise. In March, WMATA General Manager John Catoe reported that attacks on Metrobus operators have more than doubled during the past five years.

In the history of the Metro Transit Police, two officers have been killed in the line of duty. On December 19, 1993, Officer Harry Davis Jr. was shot several times outside the Metro station in Landover, MD, as he questioned two people who were sitting in a vehicle that was reported stolen; Officer Davis died the next day.

On June 10, 2001, Officer Marlon Morales was shot when he confronted a fare jumper at the U Street-Cardozo Metro station in northwest DC. He succumbed to his wounds three days later.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial includes the names of both Officer Davis (Panel 42 West-Line 19) and Officer Morales (Panel 4 East-Line 22). Let’s hope that through efforts such as the new Maryland law, Metro Transit Police officers will be able to work more effectively and more safely.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Deadly Three Months for U.S. Law Enforcement

As thousands of mourners packed the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul or watched on a huge screen erected in Logan Circle across the street, the Philadelphia Police Department laid to rest another fallen hero Tuesday morning. The funeral of Sergeant Patrick McDonald was a sad and poignant end to a deadly three months for American law enforcement.

A member of Philadelphia’s elite Highway Patrol, Sergeant McDonald was brutally executed on a North Philadelphia street September 23rd by a career criminal who had just recently received an early release from prison and already had an outstanding warrant for assaulting another police officer. He was the second Philadelphia Police officer to die in the line of duty during the month of September alone. Officer Isabel Nazario was killed September 5th when the police cruiser she was riding in was broadsided by an SUV driven by an intoxicated 16 year old . Including Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski (EOW: May 3, 2008) and Officer Charles Cassidy (EOW: November 1, 2007), four Philadelphia Police officers have died in the line of duty in the past 11 months.

As Commissioner Charles Ramsey said during Sergeant McDonald's funeral, Philadelphia Police are feeling “disbelief, anger and sadness” right now.

And, tragically, they are not alone.

Over the last three months (July 1 and September 30, 2008), a total of 44 U.S. law enforcement officers died in the line of duty, according to preliminary data from the NLEOMF. That translates into about one officer killed every 50 hours nationwide. By contrast, between January 1 and June 30 of this year, 61 officers died – or about one fatality every 72 hours.

More, and more brutal, killings

Officer fatalities are still down sharply from 2007, which was one of the deadliest years for law enforcement in the past two decades. But the reduction in fatalities this year – an encouraging 40 percent as of June 30th – was only 25 percent by September 30th. After six months of steady declines, the 44 officers killed during the third quarter of this year represented a 10 percent increase from the 40 officers who died during the same period of 2007.

Not just the number, but also the brutality of some of the killings, seems to have intensified of late. On September 6th, Sergeant Paul Starzyk of the Martinez (CA) Police Department was shot and killed during a gun battle at a hair salon where the estranged husband of an employee had gone with a gun looking for his wife. On September 19th, Caldwell County (NC) Deputy Sheriff Adam Klutz was ambushed and fatally shot as he exited his patrol vehicle after responding to 9-1-1 hang-up call at a residence. One day later, Officer Kristine Fairbanks of the USDA Forest Service, died from a single gunshot wound to the head after she stopped to investigate a suspicious vehicle on Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

Two officers killed in Chicago

And on September 28th, Chicago Police Officer Nathaniel Taylor was gunned down on the city’s South Side attempting to serve a warrant at the suspect’s residence. Ironically – and tragically – the same suspect had fired shots at police in the very same neighborhood 18 years earlier, an offense for which he served three years in prison.

Officer Taylor’s death was the last of the 42 that occurred during the third quarter of the year. The Chicago Police Department also experienced the first line-of-duty death during that period. On July 2nd, Officer Richard Francis was shot and killed with his service weapon after responding to a disturbance call on a Chicago Transit Authority bus near the Belmont District station where we worked on the city’s North Side.

Of the 44 officers who died during the past three months, 13 were shot, 21 were killed in traffic-related incidents, and two – both members of the Maryland State Police – died in a helicopter crash.

Fulfilling our mission

Three months ago, when officer fatalities were down 40 percent for the year, the NLEOMF cautioned that it was too early to “declare victory.” Now that fatalities have edged up over the past three months should be cause for concern, but not necessarily viewed as the beginning of a new and deadly trend.

Consistent with our mission to “provide information that will help promote law enforcement safety,” the NLEOMF will continue to monitor and report on the latest trends in officer deaths and safety issues.