National Police Week
FBI Honors the Fallen During Annual Law Enforcement Tribute
A candlelight vigil Sunday for law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty drew thousands of observers to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and was the signature event of National Police Week, an annual tribute to law enforcement officers across the U.S. who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week.
The vigil came a few days after the Special Agent Memorial Service at FBI Headquarters honoring the memories of fallen FBI agents. The annual service dates back to 1979, when three agents were killed in the line of duty.
Speaking at the private gathering on May 9, Director Christopher Wray issued a solemn reminder that the men and women who work in law enforcement—along with their families—willingly bear a special burden. “Every day, when agents pick up their badges, they know they might not return home at night,” Wray said.
FBI Director Christopher Wray during the Special Agent Memorial Service, held in the courtyard of FBI Headquarters on May 9, 2018. The annual ceremony includes a wreath-laying and honors the memories of special agents who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Among the 70 agents who have died in the line of duty are four—Rex Stockham, Rickey O’Donald, Laurie Fournier, and Melissa Morrow—whose names were added to the Bureau’s memorial Wall of Honor this year (clockwise from top left in composite image).
Among those honored at last week’s service were four agents—Laurie Fournier, Rickey O’Donald, Rex Stockham, and Melissa Morrow—whose names were added to the Bureau’s memorial Wall of Honor this year; three of these agents responded to the 9/11 attacks and died as a result of illnesses linked to their exposure to toxic materials. Seventy agents have died in the line of duty since the Bureau’s founding in 1908.
“Their deaths remind us all that the safety and security we enjoy come at great cost,” Wray said.
The vigil on Sunday, organized by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, included a roll-call of 360 officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial—which features two curving, 304-foot marble walls—includes the names of 21,541 officers who have died in the performance of their duty since 1791.
The losses were underscored by the May 10 release of FBI statistics reporting that 93 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2017. Of those deaths, 46 were felonious and 47 were accidental.
Police Week regularly draws 25,000 to 40,000 visitors to the nation’s capital and comprises several events, including some, like the FBI service, that occur prior to the observed week. Among the events leading up to and during Police Week this year were the annual Blue Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church; the first annual Police K-9 Memorial Service at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial; a 5K fundraising run; the arrival of the Police Unity Tour, where more than 2,000 bicycle riders simultaneously arrive in Washington after traveling for days from cities around the country; the aforementioned 30th annual candlelight vigil; and the 37th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol, which was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.