The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM) is the nation’s monument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. The Memorial honors federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation and its people. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) was established by former U. S Representative Mario Biaggi, a 23-year New York City police veteran who was wounded in the line of duty over 10 times before retiring in 1965.
The mission of the NLEOM is to generate increased public support for the law enforcement profession by permanently recording and appropriately commemorating the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers; and to provide information that will help promote law enforcement safety. The legislation to authorize the Memorial was enacted in October 1984. Fifteen national law enforcement organizations were responsible for the passage of the legislation, along with designing the Memorial, finding the site to build the Memorial, and raising the funds to build the Memorial.
Seven years after passage of the authorizing legislation, on October 15, 1991, the Memorial was officially dedicated. At the time of dedication, the names of over 12,000 fallen officers were engraved on the Memorial’s walls. Currently, there are about 19,000 names on the Memorial. Each year, during National Police Week, on May 13, the NLEOMF hosts a Candlelight Vigil, attended by more than 20,000 officers and survivors to formally dedicate the names added to the Memorial walls that year. Here on our native soil, an average of one Law Enforcement Officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere every 53 hours.
Designed by architect Davis Buckley, the Memorial sits on three acres of federal park land in an area of Washington, DC, called Judiciary Square, the historic seat of our nation’s judicial branch of government. The Memorial features two curving, 304-foot-long blue-gray marble walls. Carved on these walls are the names of nearly 19,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout U. S. history, dating back to the first known death in 1792. Bordering the Memorial’s park are the two tree-lined “pathways of remembrance” where the names of the fallen officers are engraved.
Each of the pathway entrances is decorated with powerful statuary grouping of an adult lion protecting its cubs. The bronze statues symbolize the protective role of law enforcement officers and convey the strength, courage and valor that are hallmarks of those who serve and protect. A number of remembrance ceremonies are held at the Memorial each year, and the site is visited by nearly a quarter million people annually. The Memorial’s beauty and tranquility make it a special place for reflection, meditation or just a quiet moment away from the hustle of city life.
Each May during National Police Week; new names are added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. These names include both officers who died in the line of duty during the previous calendar year, as well as officers who were killed earlier in history but whose line-of-duty sacrifices only recently came to light. This significant and emotional Memorial preserves and honors those Officers’ memories within its walls. Visitors will be deeply moved by the selfless courage, heroism, and sacrifice exhibited by these officers who gave of their lives while serving and protecting the citizens of this great nation.
Criteria for Inclusion The NLEOM defines “law enforcement officer” as an individual involved in crime control or reduction and who is directly employed on a full-time basis by a local, county, state or federal law enforcement agency of the United States or its territories, with or without compensation, who is duly sworn and has full arrest powers.
Officers serving with private or state colleges and universities, and railroads are also included, provided they are recognized as having law enforcement status by state, U.S. or District of Columbia code. Military police officers are included but only if, at the time of their death, they were experiencing similar hazards and performing similar duties as those normally experienced. In such cases, eligibility is determined after a review of several issues, whether the officer was receiving combat, imminent danger or hazardous pay; whether the officer was responding to a law enforcement violation in their area of jurisdiction, and circumstances of death.
Military police officers serving in a combat situation are not included. Correctional employees can be included if they are recognized as having law enforcement status by their employing jurisdiction. Other correctional employees who do not have formal law enforcement status but who have a primary or limited responsibility for the custody and security of suspected or convicted criminal offenders, and are employed by a local, county, state or federal correctional agency, can also be considered.
If law enforcement is not a person’s primary function (for example, correctional employees such as Maintenance Supervisor, Farm Manager, Food Service Instructor), then that person must be engaged in their law enforcement duties when their fatal injury is sustained. “Line of duty” means any action which an officer is obligated or authorized by law, rule, regulation or written condition of employment service to perform, or for which the officer is compensated by the public agency he or she serves.
The term “killed in the line of duty” means a law enforcement officer has died as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty. This includes victim law enforcement officers who, while in an off-duty capacity, act in response to a law violation. To be considered for inclusion on the Memorial an Officer Data Form must be completed. The form must be signed by the head of the agency where the officer worked. The officer data form and any supporting documentation are reviewed for accuracy and completeness by the NLEOMF research department agency.
Completed forms are forwarded to a committee of the NLEOMF Board of Directors called the Names Committee. Committee members thoroughly review each case to determine if the conditions of the death meet the criteria for inclusion on the National Memorial. The names of the fallen officers are engraved on the Memorial walls in random order. To help visitors find the names of specific officers, directories are placed at each of the entrance points.
The directory lists names in alphabetical order and by state, federal and U.S. territory agencies. Each name is associated with a panel and line number. The visitor center and store feature frames and holders for displaying rubbings done at the Memorial. During National Police Week and throughout the year, there is a long-standing tradition of leaving objects at the NLEOM in remembrance of officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice and whose names are inscribed on the walls of the Memorial. These heartbreaking tributes honor our nation’s fallen heroes and add beauty to the Memorial.
The NLEOMF serves as a nationwide clearinghouse of information and statistics on law enforcement line-of-duty deaths. The Memorial hosts a number of other tribute events throughout the year. Which include the annual Wreath laying ceremony to mark the Memorial’s dedication in October; an Engraving Day each April; and other various special events for honored guests and notable anniversary dates, such as September 11th. To recognize the “living legends” of the profession, the NLEOMF created the Officer of the Month program in September 1996.
Throughout our nation’s history, nearly 19,000 law enforcement heroes have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of others, but law enforcement has many other heroes as well, officers who differentiate themselves each and every day through excellent service and devotion to duty. Today in the U. S, nearly 900,000 law enforcement officers put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of others. That protection comes at a price however.
There are approximately 16,000 assaults on law enforcement officers each year. Sadly, over the last decade, averages of 160 officers a year have been killed in the line duty. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is dedicated to honoring all of America’s law enforcement heroes, that mission is accomplished through the Memorial. To better appreciate the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers a trip to the NLEOM is a very humbling experience we should all have.