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6 things to know about the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial

Symbols and ceremonies are important ways for us to remember fallen LEOs


Police1/Nancy Perry

The public, as well as law enforcement professionals, deserve to understand the distinctives of the police profession. This is first reflected in the uniform. Badges and department patches are unique to each agency. The color of the uniform, the style of headgear and the markings on the patrol car all tell a story in projecting their unique role in their communities. Beyond that, there are signs of special recognition for specialized units, years of service and awards earned by the individuals who wear those uniforms.

The sounds of police funerals often include the plaintive squalls of bagpipes, the startling reports of 21 shots fired, and the call to attention the rows of brother and sister officers who salute the mortal remains of the honored officer. Black bands over badges and the ubiquitous presence of the American flag add gravitas to the pervasive solemnity of the service.

Ceremonies for academy graduation, promotions, retirements and awards are a regular part of many agencies’ efforts to honor those who serve.

If there is one place where all this comes together in a special way, it is the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial, built and maintained by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). The beauty of the memorial, with its careful landscape and fountain, statuary and Memorial wall where the names of the fallen are etched, reflects the honor due to those who serve.

Here are six things you might not know about the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial:

  1. The federal government’s effort to establish a national police memorial was initiated in 1972 by Donald J. Guilfoil, a detective with the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association.
  2. Legislation to authorize the Memorial was enacted in October 1984 after efforts by U.S. Representative Mario Biaggi, a former police officer, along with U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell.
  3. The Memorial sits on federal land, but is funded by private donations. It is maintained by the National Park Service in partnership with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
  4. Designed by Washington, DC, architect Davis Buckley, the Memorial sits on three acres of federal parkland with nearly 60,000 plants and 128 trees. It was dedicated on October 15, 1991.
  5. Each of the four pathway entrances to the Memorial walls is adorned with a powerful statuary grouping of an adult lion protecting its cubs. Sculpted by Raymond Kaskey, the statues convey the strength, courage and valor that are the hallmarks of those who serve. Each adult lion figure weighs approximately 2,500 pounds.
  6. The Memorial has nearly 23,000 names engraved on its walls, dedicated each year in an annual candlelight vigil where more than 20,000 participants gather.


While much of the focus of National Police Week takes place around the Memorial, the somber and significant place of honor and contemplation is open all year.

The mission of the NLEOMF is year-round and includes a variety of supportive efforts for law enforcement including the National Law Enforcement Museum, and officer safety and wellness.

The National Law Enforcement Museum: Many large agencies have their own exhibits about their unique history. The National Law Enforcement Museum is the only place where all law enforcement is honored as part of America’s story. Striking exhibits of major events in police history remind attendees of the many challenges that have been faced and overcome. From the early days to current events the exhibits keep these critical junctures alive. There are interactive exhibits and plenty of memorabilia that are of interest to law officers, their families, and citizens at large.

Police1 resource: How the National Law Enforcement Museum honors and educates

Officer safety and wellness: “The purpose of the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum is to honor the role of law enforcement, in service to society, by recognizing the sacrifices and valor of law enforcement, educating the community, and making it safer for those who serve” according to the purpose statement on the NLEOMF. Training partnerships with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Policing Services, the National Highway Safety Administration, the Suicide Awareness for Law Enforcement Officers, and other government and non-government organizations provide opportunities for life-saving education. The NLEOMF website has several high-impact videos and other resource links available to everyone, many appropriate for roll call training including officer fatality data.

Police1 resource: 5 ways police departments can improve officer traffic safety


The many services of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the National Law Enforcement Museum, and the safety and wellness effort of the NLEOMF are available all the time. No visitor to Washington, D.C., especially for National Police Week, should fail to spend time on the NLEOMF website for insights, directions and helpful information to take full advantage of the organization’s efforts.

Besides visiting the Memorial and museum and perhaps picking up some great souvenir items, individuals, organizations and businesses can support the NLEOMF in a variety of ways. Either on-site or online, officers and supporters can peruse branded merchandise items that can be a great reminder of the NLEOMF, the sacrifice of so many in the profession, and of the need to be constantly aware of the dangers faced daily. Information on the website will provide guidance on how to keep the mission going.

NEXT: ‘Keeping names off the wall’: How NLEOMF works to prioritize officer safety

Joel Shults operates Street Smart Training and is the founder of the National Center for Police Advocacy. He retired as Chief of Police in Colorado. Over his 30-year career in uniformed law enforcement and criminal justice education, Joel served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the U.S. Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over 50 police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of advisory and advocacy boards, including the Colorado POST curriculum committee, as a subject matter expert.

His latest book The Badge and the Brain is available at
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