JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
Next week, Joint Base Andrews Security Forces will kick off five days of National Police Week activities. Not only will we honor and remember those in law enforcement who made the ultimate sacrifice, but we will showcase our capabilities as defenders, compete in friendly competition and revel in comradery with our fellow law enforcement officers.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls, as National Police Week. Established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962, National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.
The security forces career field possesses a rich history of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. As a young lieutenant I remember listening in amazement in my Security Police Basic Officer Course to stories about the gallant defense of Bunker 51 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive.
There five security police NCOs: Sgt. Louis Fischer, Sgt. William J. Cyr, Sgt. Charles E. Hebron, Sgt. Roger B. Mills, and Sgt. Alonzo J. Coggins fought against over 600 Viet Cong. Four security police were killed and the fifth was so badly wounded, that the Viet Cong left him for dead. The actions by these defenders held the bunker for 24 minutes against overwhelming odds and allowed reinforcements to hold against the attack on the airfield.
There, Capt. Reginald V. Maisey, Jr., assigned to the 3rd Security Police Squadron at Bien Hoa Air Base in Vietnam, fought courageously defending Bunker 10 from the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong guerrillas. Maisey paid the ultimate price when he was killed by a rocket propelled grenade. For his efforts, Maisey was awarded the Air Force Cross. And if you didn’t know, the Maisey Building at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling is named after him.
We tend to view our home station installations as a sort of “Mayberry” where there is very little crime. The reality is it can be much different. Tech. Sgt. Robert Butler was shot and killed Jan. 10, 1998 at Edwards Air Force Base in California after stopping the vehicle of a fellow Airman who had killed another Airman moments earlier. At the time, Butler did not know the driver was a suspect in the murder.
There are currently over 21,000 names of officers killed in the line of duty at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C. Three hundred sixty names of police officers will be added to the Memorial in ceremonies this year.
The first known death of a law enforcement officer dates back to 1791, while the deadliest year in law enforcement history was 1930 when 307 officers lost their lives. Law enforcement fatalities have remained around 130 per year in the United States over the years. The last time law officer fatalities were lower than 100 was in 1944.
One hundred twenty-eight federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers died in the line of duty in 2017. Forty-four officers were shot and killed, which represents a 33 percent reduction over 2016 when 66 officers died as a result of gunfire.
While this downturn in officer deaths by firearms is good news, it appears to be fleeting. As I write this article, officer deaths by firearms have increased by 63 percent in 2018 over the same time period last year.
I ask that you take the opportunity over the course of National Police Week to say thanks to our local, state and federal law enforcement partners when you see them. Those in law enforcement serve in a noble profession that provides that thin blue line that protects and serves our community against the evil-doers of society. Law enforcement serves as an enabler of democracy and the freedoms we cherish in America.