The national colors fly at half-staff today (May 15) in observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day. Today’s observance was first established by public Law 87-726 in a 1962 joint resolution of Congress:
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:
Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to issue proclamations designating 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 …
Later acts of Congress and the executive branch have re-affirmed the nation’s commitment to honor its law enforcement officers.
To the men and women who lay their lives on the line every day patrolling our streets and apprehending evil-doers, those of us in camouflage uniforms salute you. We share a common bond.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC contains the names of over 17,500 law enforcement officers who have given their lives for the sake of their neighbors. These scenes from the memorial wall are all too familiar to those of us in the military branches; we grieve for our own and honor them in similar ways.
We also share the same moral foundation for the legitimate use of force and we operate in similarly toxic environments when it comes to deadly conflict. The tidy division of men-at-arms into narrowly focused organizations is a relatively recent development. When the Paul, for example, speaks of the ruling authorities “bearing the sword” in Romans 13:1-6, the role would have encompassed both police and military functions.
Dave Grossman’s On Combat is an excellent resource for preparing both soldiers and police officers to operate honorably and effectively within that environment. It is also a good resource for those seeking to understand and work-through their combat experiences after the fact.
Finally, there is one other area where soldiers and police officers share a common bond. There is a loud but vocal minority in the United States that detests those who belong to the profession of arms. Currently, their contempt is aimed primarily at those in military service, but I remember a time in my youth when their scorn and condescension were aimed at peace officers as well. Police officers were reviled with shameful porcine epithets (that is, they were called “pigs”). Fortunately, this hatred is confined to a small, misguided minority within our society. The vast majority of Americans respect their defenders, regardless of whether those defenders are patrolling the streets of Philadelphia or the streets of Baghdad.
To all peace officers and their families, I extend my thanks for your service and your sacrifice.