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NEWS | May 9, 2011

From the Top - National Police Week, Remembering the Sacrifice!

By Colonel David W. Koontz 11th Security Forces Group commander

Each year during Police Week, communities across the United States hold a memorial service in remembrance of police officers who have made the supreme sacrifice for their communities. Also during this week, police departments hold open houses, conduct tours of their facilities, and hold community activities to celebrate police officers and their duties. May 15 has been designated National Peace Officers Memorial Day.

Police Week's origins began on October 1, 1962, when U.S. President John F. Kennedy signed Public Law 87-726, a joint resolution of the 87th Congress.

The act reads: Pursuant to 36 U.S.C. 136-137, the President designates May 15 of each year as 'Peace Officers Memorial Day' and the week in which it falls as 'Police Week.'

In 1994, U.S. president William J. Clinton signed Public Law 103-322, a joint resolution of the 103rd Congress directing that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff on all government buildings on May 15.

It is appropriate that we take time each year to honor our law enforcement professionals. Police work is inherently dangerous. On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States every 53 hours. Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice. So far in 2011, 67 United States police officers have died in the line of duty. That is an 18 percent increase over the same time period last year. Of those police officers killed, 33 were killed due to gunfire. That's up 65 percent over the same time period last year. This reflects a trend in violence towards police officers as published in crime statistics analysis by the Federal Bureau of Investigation which noted armed ambushes of police officers as the leading cause of law enforcement officer death in the line of duty over response to domestic disturbances or traffic stops.

Bringing things closer to the Air Force, Security Forces suffered the loss of one of our own March 2. Senior Airman Nicholas Alden of the 48th Security Forces Squadron at Lakenheath Air Base was gunned down by an Islamic extremist outside the Frankfurt International Airport as he was standing by a bus that would take him and his team to Ramstein Air Base. An 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron Airman was also killed and two Security Forces members were wounded in the attack.

Closer to our home on Joint Base Andrews, several area police officers have made the ultimate sacrifice protecting their communities.

Representatives of these brave officers include the following persons:

Trooper Wesley Washington John Brown of the Maryland State Police who was shot and killed while working a department sanctioned off-duty security detail at a restaurant in full uniform. Trooper Brown escorted a customer out of the restaurant who had refused to pay a bill. As Trooper Brown stood in the parking lot of the restaurant, the man returned and fatally shot Trooper Brown.

Officer Paul Michael Dittamo of the Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, D.C., was killed in a single-vehicle crash while responding to a call. Officer Dittamo lost control of the patrol vehicle and collided with a utility pole. Officer Dittamo was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, his partner sustained non-life threatening injuries.

Trooper Mark David Barrett of the Virginia State Police died after drowning during a training dive in Lake Anna, Va. Trooper Barrett and fellow members of the Virginia State Police's Search and Recovery Team were performing deep-water dives when Trooper Barrett's dive partner noticed him struggling as he ascended to the surface. CPR was immediately administered and Trooper Barrett was transported to a local hospital where he died.

Unfortunately due to Joint Service Open House and compliance inspection preparations, the 11th Security Forces Group will not be able to host Police Week activities this year. I do encourage our Andrews community to participate in the activities in our nation's capital honoring the fallen in the law enforcement community.

Please take time during this week to thank the men and women in "blue" in our local communities for their efforts to ensure we continue to work and live in the greatest nation in the world! DEFENSOR FORTIS!