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Honor Remains, Despite the Desecration of Law Enforcement Memorials.

Preserving the memory of fallen officers in public places is essential.

Amidst the ongoing orgy of the Taliban-like, nationwide destruction and defacement of monuments, the desecration of law enforcement memorials has been virtually ignored. It is bad enough that statues of America’s historical figures are being eradicated from the landscape, but violating the sanctity of a permanent tribute to the dead—to public servants, at that—is clearly beyond the pale. No different than war memorials, these sites of tribute were once deemed sacred places. (In fact, even the war memorials are not off-limits to the lunatics of the left.)

No different than war memorials, these sites of tribute were once deemed sacred places.

The National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., which is engraved with 22,217 names of American law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, was spray-painted with the epithet “Murderers Memorial.” California’s Peace Officers Memorial, displaying 1,315 names of officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice since California became a state, had “FTP” painted on it. A mural honoring Sgt. Robert Wilson, a black police sergeant from Philadelphia, was also defaced, and in Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Region Peace Officers’ Memorial sustained over $50,000 in damages.

No communities have been spared. The Fort Worth Police and Firefighters Memorial in Fort Worth, Texas, was plastered with anti-police epithets. Manny Ramirez, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association condemned the violence

“We cannot demean the memory of people who honorably served and gave their lives for this city and for this country. It’s gone too far. Each name that’s on the wall represents a family. That’s why it’s so difficult to process that someone would make it [the memorial] a target for attack.”

The desecration of Charleston, South Carolina’s 9 Firefighters Memorial finally prompted outrage. An officer on routine patrol along Savannah Highway discovered the vandalism after spotting debris in the roadway. Several American flags, a Charleston 9 memorial flag, and a metal memorial sign that had been on display were removed from the memorial site and found on the roadway. One of the flags had been scorched from fire; others smelled of gasoline. An angel statue at the memorial for fallen firefighter Louis Mulkey had also been knocked over.

“This is a sacred place not just for our fire department, but for our entire city and all our citizens,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said. “I consider it a heinous criminal act that someone would defile this holy place, and we will … take every measure of the law to prosecute whoever we find to be responsible.”

Other cities should follow suit, taking swift action to preserve the memory of our fallen heroes.

Virginia removes police monument.

Richmond removes Richmond Police Memorial.

AS LAW OFFICERS COME UNDER RELENTLESS PRESSURE, THE MOB CONTINUES TO SMEAR THEIR REPUTATION AND MEMORY

Virginia, particularly Richmond, has been a focal point of monument removal, in large part because of a cluster of Confederate statues. But even the Richmond Police Memorial, depicting an officer holding a child clutching a teddy bear and featuring a plaque bearing 39 names of fallen Richmond police officers, has had to be moved to the department’s academy to prevent its destruction. Among those honored by the memorial are ten officers who lost their lives in the 1870 Capitol Disaster, 150 years ago. Including the deputy marshal who was present, 11 lawmen were killed in that tragedy, making it the single deadliest loss in U.S. law enforcement history—before the terrorist attack by the violent Islamist group Al-Qaeda on September 11th, 2001, of course, which claimed the lives of 72 officers.

Throughout the nation’s history, 12,505 law enforcement officers have lost their lives to gunfire; in the last four years (to date), 181 officers have perished by gunfire.

Numbers alone do not tell the real story of loss, however. One of the more recent names on the Richmond Police Memorial is that of Det. George R. Taylor, who happened to be black. Married, with two teenage daughters, Det. Taylor was shot in the heart by a convicted murderer out on parole. The 39-year-old officer was also an Army veteran of the Vietnam era, having served both his country and community in uniform.

Det. Taylor’s murder occurred 200 years after the death in the line of duty of Sheriff Benjamin Branch, of nearby Chesterfield County, on April 29th, 1786. Sheriff Branch, too, was a war veteran, having fought with Virginia’s militia during the Revolutionary War. Branch left behind a wife, two sons, and three daughters. He also earned the distinction of being the first lawman in U.S. history to lose his life on duty. 

Today, with 284 law enforcement officer gunfire deaths, Virginia ranks at number 16 among U.S. states—tied with Louisiana. That tally is out of 520 total line-of-duty fatalities in the commonwealth’s history. Throughout the nation’s history, 12,505 law enforcement officers have lost their lives to gunfire; in the last four years (to date), 181 officers have perished by gunfire. Tragically, the Officer Down Memorial Page continues to add names to that tally almost weekly. 

By comparison, 45 U.S. military personnel were killed by hostile action in Afghanistan between 2017 and so far in 2020. In the past 45 years following the Vietnam War, 5,993 Americans have died in actual combat (from enemy action) for their country. The link between war veterans and law enforcers is abundantly clear—often, our heroes have been one in the same. Far too many have made the ultimate sacrifice for the good of others, both on our streets and in foreign lands. A mere generation ago (what a difference 20 years, or even four months, makes) American society-at-large recognized this truth. 

When the U.S. Postal Service issued a 33-cent commemorative stamp in 1999 called Honoring Those Who Served, it did not only commemorate the lives of military veterans. “The stamp also serves as a lasting tribute to the policemen, firefighters and other law enforcement officers who gave their lives to protect the welfare of all Americans,” said Einar V. Dyhrkopp, then-chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors. There was a similar outpouring of respect and admiration in the aftermath of September 11th, commemorating all our first responders

The Democrats in the Virginia State Senate fail to grasp this sentiment—even after the Richmond Police Memorial had to be removed from Byrd Park to prevent further vandalism. Instead of valorizing the men and women who keep our streets safe, these elected officials have effectively ‘opened season’ on law enforcement officers and their memory. State Senate Democrats in Virginia have backed a bill that would allow assault on officers to be treated as a mere misdemeanor. For good measure, they also threw in firefighters and EMTs.

Virginia legislators are not alone: they are emblematic of a nationwide trend to capitulate to mob demands and denigrate our law enforcement officers. However in vogue, this sentiment is contrary to what Congress and Democratic President John Kennedy intended when they proclaimed Peace Officers Memorial Day in 1962. Evermore, May 15th was marked as a day “to voice our appreciation for all those who currently serve on the front lines in the battle against crime.”

President Kennedy and his majority-Democrat Congress were explicit in their reasoning:

“Whereas the police officers of America have worked devotedly and selflessly in behalf of the people of this Nation, regardless of the peril or hazard to themselves; and

Whereas these officers have safeguarded the lives and property of their fellow Americans; and

Whereas by the enforcement of our laws, these same officers have given our country internal freedom from fear of the violence and civil disorder that is presently affecting other nations;

Whereas these men and women by their patriotic service and their dedicated efforts have earned the gratitude of the Republic … be it Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President .. [designates] May 15 of each year as Peace Officers Memorial Day in honor of the Federal, State, and municipal officers who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty…”

Quite the opposite is true in fall, 2020. Murdered law enforcement officers are not accorded martyrdom in the cause of public safety; their names are not repeated, ad nauseam, in media, nor emblazoned on the helmets of multi-millionaire players, and they are not eulogized by national politicians at their funerals turned media festivals. 

This drift towards dishonor and malice cannot be allowed to continue.

As Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) recently put it after the Little Rock Police Memorial was desecrated, these “fallen officers will always be honored and remembered,” despite “the criminals who defaced their memory—and their politically motivated supporters.”

Written By

Richard K. Kolb was publisher and editor-in-chief of VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) magazine from 1989 to 2016. A Vietnam veteran, he is editor and the primary contributing author of Brutal Battles of Vietnam: America's Deadliest Days, 1965-1972 (2017).

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