By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
MOORE — A red, white and blue memorial wreath stood in the hallway of the Moore Police Department, and many flags were flown at half staff Thursday in remembrance of fallen officers.
It was the department’s third year to have a service for National Peace Officer Memorial Day, which is recognized May 15 every year. The calendar week in which May 15 falls also is recognized as National Police Week.
As the 45 officers who had fallen in the United States this calendar year were remembered with a slideshow of their photos, haunting calls to dispatch echoed through the room.
“Today, we acknowledge those who serve their communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out and who put their lives on the line to protect and serve their communities. We ask you to respect, honor and remember,” Lt. Dan Melendez said.
Three of those fallen officers served in Oklahoma. Undersheriff Brian Beck, with the Washita County Sheriff’s Office, Officer Kristian Willhight, with the Burns Flat Police Department, and Deputy Terry Fisher, with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, died in January.
To help the families of those fallen Oklahoma officers, the department announced that the Moore Fraternal Order of Police will make a donation to the Oklahoma Police Officer Memorial Foundation.
Statistics of fallen officers show in 2012 and 2013 that the number of fatalities were the lowest the United States had seen since 1959 when 110 officers died. Unfortunately, data for this year is showing a 26 percent increase in officers’ deaths over 2013 at this time, Melendez said.
“Today in the United States, some 900,000 law enforcement officers put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of others, including the 87 dedicated members of the Moore Police Department. They serve with valor and distinction, and with much success as you saw earlier,” Sgt. David Dickinson said, referring to a video presentation at the beginning of the service.
Dickinson said federal statistics show that violent and property crime rates in the United States are at historic lows, thanks in large part to the dedicated service of the men and women in law enforcement.
“That protection comes at a price, however,” he said.
Melendez told the crowd Thursday about a conversation he had with his father once.
“My father told me one time, ‘You can’t save the world,’” he said. “My response was, ‘Maybe I can make it a little better.’ I’d like to think that the men and women I serve with are of the same mettle.
“When we put on our vest and when we strap on our gun, that’s our go. (We) just want to make the world a little better of a place by what we do.”
Moore Police Chief Jerry Stillings told those in attendance Thursday that the day reminds them how serious their jobs are. He thanked the officers, families, communications employees, support personnel and the city for all they do.
“We appreciate the work you do. We know how tough it is. It’s a tough job. It’s tough on everybody, but it’s also rewarding,” Stillings said.
History: President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Police Officer Memorial Day in 1962, as well as National Police Week. The week pays tribute to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty and for the safety and protection of others, Melendez said.
Since the first recorded police death in 1791, more than 19,00 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty, including a member of the Moore Police Department, Officer Danny Vanderpool. Police paid tribute to Vanderpool for his service.
Vanderpool was working as an undercover narcotics officer, posing as a high school student during that time, when he died in a traffic accident. He was on duty working on a narcotic assignment at the time of his death on May 18, 1979.
The deadliest day in law enforcement history was Sept. 11, 2011, when 72 officers were killed while responding to terrorist attacks on America. Thirty-seven of those officers were from New York and New Jersey police departments, Melendez said.
“That represents the single largest loss of law enforcement personnel by a single agency in United States history,” he said.
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