Police Chief Michael Wynn provided opening and closing remarks.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Some 23,721 law enforcement officers have been died in the line of duty since 1791, according to Police Chief Michael Wynn.
Five of them died in Pittsfield: Capt. Michael Leonard, in 1898; Jailer James Fuller, 1901; Secret Service Operative William Craig, 1902; Officer Leo Sullivan, 1956; and Officer Timothy Shepard, 1988.
In honor of National Police Week, the Pittsfield Police Department took time on Wednesday in remembrance of those five, officers throughout the nation, and those currently in the field.
"Who chooses to do this work? Why do they choose to do it? Critics will say they have an attitude, that they are biased, or they have something to prove. I haven't found that to be the case. In my experience, most people who become police officers become officers because they truly feel called to serve. They recognize that among us there are those who will willingly do harm to others. They recognize that most people would prefer not to admit that, deal with it, or confront it," Wynn said.
"They recognize that in all civilized societies, some chosen few must make the decision to place themselves between chaos and order."
The department has been holding the event for years to recognize both National Police Week and National Peace Officer Memorial Day on May 15. The national recognition began under President John F. Kennedy in 1962 when May 15 and the week in which it falls was dedicated. In 1994, President Bill Clinton directed that all flags on government buildings be lowered to half staff on May 15.
In Washington, D.C., a candlelight vigil and memorial service is held and the names of officers who died on duty are inscribed on a memorial.
"For many years the Pittsfield Police Department has commemorated Police Week by holding our own memorial service during or shortly after the national events," Wynn said.
Wynn said, throughout the nation, an officer dies every 53 hours. In 2018, 163 officers died in the line of duty and so far in 2019, 42 have.
The ceremony at the First Street Common featured Mayor Linda Tyer reading a proclamation honoring the day; Chaplain Russell Moody providing the invocation and benediction; Christina Wynn reading the poem "The Thin Blue Line"; Sgt. Cheryl Callahan reading "We Honor Our Fallen"; Mary Brinton playing "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes, and Cameron Martin playing taps after roses were laid on the common's stage in front of pictures of the five officers who died locally. Various law enforcement agencies in the region had representatives sitting on stage during the ceremony.
Chief Wynn, however, said just recognizing the officers who died isn't enough.
"It does us no good to recognize the fallen if we don't take steps to protect and preserve the living. Equipment is important, training is important, however, across all of our chosen law enforcement agencies, access to screening services, counseling, wellness initiatives, resiliency education, fitness programs, and other protective measures are vital," Wynn said.
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