In May, law enforcement officers from across the country will travel to Washington D.C. to participate in a series of events and ceremonies for National Police Week. The week coincides with Peace Officers Memorial day, which falls on May 15th, and both of which are meant to honor the law enforcement officers who lost their lives or were severely injured while serving their communities.
National Police Week is an annual event that was started by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. During a proclamation given on May 4th, 1963, Kennedy announced the official holiday and encouraged state and local governments to recognize it every year thereafter. “Now, Therefore, I, John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate May 15, 1963, and May 15 of each succeeding year, as Peace Officers Memorial Day,” he said. “In honor of those peace officers who, through their courageous deeds, have lost their lives or have become disabled in the performance of duty.”
In the years since the proclamation, presidents have continue to honor fallen and injured police officers every week of May 15th. This includes moving speeches and honorary events, many of which take place in Washington D.C. In addition to honoring those people who lost their lives in the line of duty, the event also emphasizes the work that police officers do presently in state and local communities across the country. In a 2016 address, former-president Barack Obama recognized the public servants who had lost their lives or been injured, but also recognized the women and men who face uncertain circumstances as police officers every day.
“For generations, the brave women and men of our Nation’s law enforcement have answered the call to serve and protect our communities. Enduring long shifts in dangerous and unpredictable circumstances, our Nation’s peace officers embody the courage and honor that represent the best of America,” Obama said in his speech. “On Peace Officers Memorial Day and during Police Week, we express our gratitude for the selfless public servants who wear the badge and put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe, and we pay respect for those who lost their lives in the line of duty.”
In every year since 1982, this presidential address is typically give during the week. The thousands of law enforcement officers who travel to the capital typically unite in the Senate Park for a memorial service. In 1982, this was a small proceeding with only 120 guests, but has since grown into a series of events and services that draws a large crowd from across the country. For those unable to attend the proceedings in Washington D.C., C-Span broadcasts the ceremony each year.
National Police Week 2018
The schedule for the 2018 National Police Week includes several memorial services and a mass for police officers who lost their lives while on duty this year. The primary purpose of the annual holiday is for the country and fellow law enforcement officers to honor those who have passed. For attendees, the week also offers a way forward with unity events and fundraising initiatives.
This year, the Annual Blue Mass was held on May 1, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington D.C. The mass honored the 129 officers who lost their lives in the line of duty during 2017. First responders from the federal, state, and local agencies marched in remembrance of the fallen officers in a solemn parade. Representatives from public safety agencies on the local and federal level also travel to attend and speak at the mass.
The Annual Blue Mass occurs a week before National Police Week’s official start, and two more memorial services occur before Peace Officers Memorial Day. The first is the Washington Area Law Enforcement Memorial Service, which remembers local law enforcement who lost their lives. The second is the 1st Annual Police K-9 Memorial Service for the fallen dogs of police officers who gave their lives. The event also features a luncheon with the National Police Dog Association.
Significant Police Week Events
On Saturday, May 12th, the Police Unity Arrival Ceremony will take place at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The primary purpose of the Police Unity Arrival tour is to raise awareness for officers who have died while serving their communities. It was founded in May 1997, by Officer Patrick P. Montuore of the Florham Park Police Department, and has since raised significant funds for the National Police Fund. In addition to the efforts of this organization, there is also a National Police Week 5k held by Officer Down Memorial Page. The race invites young and old runners of all experience levels to run in the memory of officers who have lost their lives or been injured. This year’s theme is “Run to Remember the Fallen”.
National Police Survivors conferences for families, kids, and teens. The conference is hosted by Concerns of Police Survivors and is meant to give the families and coworkers of fallen officers the opportunity to seek support, talk through their grief, learn coping mechanisms to move forward, and connect with other people with similar experiences.
The National Police Week proceedings end with an appreciation night for law enforcement with the Washington Nationals baseball team. While it’s no doubt a difficult week of services and memorials for law enforcement officers, this event gives the thousands of public officers who gather in the capital the chance to acknowledge that the risks in their line of work are appreciated.
“It takes a special kind of courage to be a peace officer. Whether deputies or detectives, tribal police or forest service officers, beat cops or Federal agents, we hold up those who wear the badge as heroes,” said former president Obama during his National Police Week address. “Though they too often spend their days witnessing America at its worst, in their extraordinary examples, we see America at its best.”
Use one of our graphics below to share a special message during National Police Week.