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Members of the Madison Police Honor Guard are K9 Officer Adam Lawson, Sgt. Chris Townsend, Sgt. Weston Taets and SRO Bryce Taets. CONTRIBUTED

Madison Police joins nation in honoring fallen officers for National Police Week

By Officer Teresa Taylor-Duncan

Madison Police Communications Officer

MADISON – Each year since 1961 when President Kennedy signed the bill into law, millions of Americans have joined together in Washington, D.C. and across our nation to honor police officers throughout the week of May 15.

This year, during the week of May 10-16 police officers across the nation, including Madison, will be honored during National Police Week. On May 15, those officers who have fallen or were disabled in the line of duty will be honored and remembered on Peace Officers Memorial Day.

Traditionally, the week-long gathering of thousands in our nation’s capital includes candlelight vigils, wreath laying ceremony, Blue Mass, an Honor Guard competition and other commemorative functions. However, with the current pandemic situation, these activities have been cancelled.

Local gatherings such as the memorial event on the Madison County Courthouse square which included a wreath pinning ceremony when family members of fallen officers participated or were represented by fellow officers and a rifle salute by local honor guards ending with a lone bag piper have all been cancelled. 

For years, this solemn gathering was anticipated and dreaded. The fact that we must commemorate fallen officers brings grief and emotions to the forefront of our hearts and minds as we approach this week each year. It also provides us the opportunity to engage with others who share our sadness and the burdens we bear as we stand proudly, dressed in our Class A uniforms, heads bowed as we struggle to maintain the composure that is expected of a police officer. 

The distant, keening tone of a lone bag piper brings up memories of funerals past and is an ever present reminder that at any time, our name, or the names of our brothers or sisters could be the next one chiseled on that granite stone.

Watching family members step slowly across the sidewalk, with the sun setting to the west, and pinning a lone flower into the wreath among the many others represented by those blue roses is an emotional memory. It lends us to ask the question, “if not me, then who will it be?” Whether it is the sacrifices of a family member or that of a fellow officer, we all understand that we are but one heartbeat away from becoming a part of the memorial no one wants.

Each year law enforcement agencies throughout our country participate in a campaign known as “Under 100” whose goal is to reduce law enforcement line of duty deaths to less than 100.  The last year this number was below 100 was 1944 when 95 officers lost their lives. While Under 100 is an honorable goal, officers, families, and agencies would like that number to be zero.

In a recent gathering of Madison Police Department Honor Guard members, they shared recollections of the past year. Attending the many funerals in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama, participating in the 2019 Memorial service in Huntsville and the service in Washington, D.C. were great honors but also left a heavy burden on the officers. 

In addition to their regular duty assignments, these men traveled long hours to stand in honor of fallen officers in cold, rain, or snow. Watching the family members of those who have died try to find answers for why they were now widows or fatherless children and seeing the loss in their eyes creates an emotional and physical drain on members of the Honor Guard. However, when called to their task, without hesitation each responded, “We will be there”.

In 2020, if we cannot celebrate the memory of and honor those who stand the gap for us as a group, how will we commemorate and recognize the sacrifices of our fellow officers?

The Madison Police Department asks that residents and businesses alike “Turn Madison Blue” in memory of fallen officers across the country and honor those officers who work every shift protecting the lives and liberties of our citizens. Place a blue light in the window of your home or business or on your front porch during the week of May 10-16 and send us a photo so that we can share them. The families of those officers shown below and the officers standing the gap and holding the line today will be forever grateful.

Alabama Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty May 10, 2019-May 10, 2020:

Police Officer Nick O’Rear   Kimberly Police Department EoW 02/05/20

Police Officer William R. Buechner, Jr.   Auburn Police Department EoW 05/19/19

Investigator Dornell Cousette   Tuscaloosa Police Department EoW 09/16/19

Sheriff John A. “Big John” Williams, Sr.   Lowndes County Sheriff EoW 11/23/19

Agent Billy Fred Clardy, III   Huntsville Police Department EoW 12/06/19

K9 Jake   Alabama Department of Corrections EoW 07/20/19

K9 Hooch   Alabama Department of Corrections EoW 10/10/19

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