There comes a time every spring in DC when even the most jaded local looks about and goes, "hey, there sure are a lot of cops around! Even more than normal. Am I really fighting for space at Irish Times on Tuesday night? Did a Mountie just walk by? What the hell is going on around here?". That's right folks, it's Cop Week again in DC.
For those of you not in the know, every spring the nation honors the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers, with a special focus on those who have died in the line of duty in the previous year. Formally known as National Police Week, Cop Week was founded by President Kennedy and Congress in 1962. While it is a nation-wide celebration, special focus occurs in Washington, DC with ceremonies held throughout the city, most notably at the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Judiciary Square.
Unlike the Memorials on the Mall, the Law Enforcement Memorial sees relatively little traffic, which is more the fault of its location in the urban desert of Judiciary Square than due to any defect in its design. Fittingly enough, the surrounding blocks hosts the Metropolitan Police Department's Headquarters (DC's Police force), the FBI's Washington Field Office, and (as the the name implies) numerous Federal and DC courthouses. So if you have a particular affinity to law enforcement, or happen to be at the National Building Museum across the street, plan on spending a few minutes checking out the Memorial. But if you're in town this week, be ready. Many events will be held here, including a Candlelight Vigil this Thursday, May 13th. Expect large numbers of people to turn out for it.
The Memorial features the names of over 18,983 officers who have died in the line of duty, with more tragically added every year. If you are fortunate enough not to know any names on the Memorial personally, let me suggest a few to look up:
- New York City Deputy Sheriff Issac Smith (30-E: 21) - The first American law enforcement Officer to be killed in the line of duty.
- Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit (63-E: 9) - Killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, shortly after he killed President Kennedy (or whatever kooky theory you wish to pursue).
- DC Sergeant Henry Joseph Daly (3-E: 19), FBI Special Agent Martha Dixon Martinez (26-E: 19), and Special Agent Michael John Miller (50-E:19) - Killed by some jackass just a few hundred feet away at MPD Headquarters at 300 Indiana Avenue in 1994.
- US Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut (39-W: 21) and Detective John Gibson (36-W: 21) - Two Capitol Police Officers killed by a deranged gunman in 1998.
- Lincoln County, NM Sheriff William Brady (13-W: 3) - One of six law enforcement officers killed by Billy the Kid.
If there's a fault to be found with the Memorial, it's that too little context is provided for what you're seeing, a fault to be remedied when the accompanying museum opens in a few years. Thematically, it most reminds me of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, with a similar roll call of names. However, while the Vietnam Wall forces you down into a an increasingly towering wall of names that build above your head as you move further into it, the Law Enforcement Memorial is relatively spread out, with large areas left blank at the bottom of each panel. And, in fact, it's often the blank space that focuses my attention. While Vietnam is largely a closed chapter in American history, with names added at a trickle, this Memorial is built for the long haul, with space left for the grim certainty of future losses. The Memorial anticipates filling up space by 2050, while I certainly hope they are wrong.