This week the Justice Department commemorated National Police Week by hosting and attending events across the country to honor those who have sacrificed for the protection of us all.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation that designated May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day. That day falls during Police Week. Each year, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world converge on Washington, D.C., to participate in events that honor those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the Bureau of Prisons Correctional Workers Memorial Service. He expressed gratitude and thanks that no new names had been added to the memorial this year, and highlighted the heroic actions of Gregory J. Gunter, a former off-duty maintenance mechanic general foreman at the Federal Correctional Institute in Petersburg, Va.
On Christmas Day in 1982, Gunter responded to a radio call for help during a riot where he was tragically fatally wounded. As Attorney General Holder noted:
“Foreman Gunter’s extraordinary actions delayed the large group of inmates from reaching those they were pursuing, and provided time for additional staff to arrive and end the riot. There is no doubt that his sacrifice saved lives, prevented injuries – both among inmates and staff – and allowed order to be restored.”
Attorney General Holder also spoke at the 14th Annual Candlelight Vigil sponsored by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. He shared the stories of bravery from members of the “thin blue line.” He remarked that the time has come to put past our differences in an effort to protect those who protect us, and said:
“Block by block, city by city, department by department – we can combat and hold totally accountable with the harshest penalties, the criminal element that menaces our communities and targets the law enforcement family.”
Other department officials also participated in Police Week 2012. Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West attended the 18th Annual Blue Mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. The mass honors law enforcement and fire safety officers for their service.
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Director Bernard Melekian hosted an open house on Capitol Hill, meeting with congressional members and their staff to discuss upcoming law enforcement grant programs and public safety trends.
Director Melekian also delivered remarks during the National Association of Police Organizations Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. He discussed the work of the department’s Officer Safety and Wellness Group, a collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and practitioners. The group works to develop initiatives designed to reduce the number of officer fatalities.
At the meeting, he spoke about the department’s commitment to keeping officers safe:
“We have to continue applying resources and expertise to help find a resolution to the issue of officer fatalities. This partnership has been long overdue, but we’re fortunate to see a broader effort being made, with new components developing strategies aimed at decreasing officer deaths due to gunfire, traffic accidents and suicides.”
U.S. Attorneys across the country also celebrated Police Week in their districts. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware held several events honoring officers including a law enforcement suicide prevention seminar aimed at increasing suicide awareness, improving access to resources and identifying best practices. The training was held in conjunction with the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement Executives and the Delaware Air National Guard, 166th Airlift Wing.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, Timothy J. Heaphy, will speak at an officer’s memorial service in Tazewell, Va., this week.
Events continue this weekend and throughout the month, to honor those who serve and protect every community across the country. For more information, including a detailed schedule of events for National Police Week 2012, visit www.policeweek.org.