In 2016, 143 police officers died while on duty across the U.S. Those brave officers will be honored today during National Police Week.
By Bob Ferris, CEO VirTra
After St. Louis County Police Officer Blake Snyder was shot and killed while responding to a 911 call for a residential disturbance on Oct. 6, 2016, many residents across the Missouri community showed their support for the fallen officer’s family and fellow officers by replacing their porch lights with blue light bulbs.
“I’ve never seen community support like we got here,” said Sgt. John Wall of the department. “You couldn’t buy a blue light bulb in a store around here for a month.”
Because of Snyder’s death, National Police Week, which runs from May 15 through May 21 to honor fallen police officers across the nation, will be even more personal to his department’s officers this year, said Wall. National Police Week events are held in Washington, D.C., and are attended by about 40,000 officers from across the United States annually.
Snyder was one of 143 U.S. police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2016, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. That’s the highest total since 2011, when 178 officers died while on the job. So far, through May 10, 46 police officers have died in the line of duty in 2017, according to the group.
Snyder, a four-year veteran of the police department, was 33 years old. He was married and the father of a two-year-old son.
Some 10 St. Louis County Police Department officers, including Chief Jon Belmar, will travel to Washington to participate in the National Police Week activities, including National Peace Officers Memorial Day, which is commemorated today, May 15. A memorial service will be held at the U.S. Capitol building for the officers who were killed in 2016, followed by a wreath laying ceremony. Surviving family members of the officers will be honored during the events.
The police department, which has 855 officers and just received approval to begin hiring another 145 officers soon, has been sending a contingent of officers to the National Police Week events for many years. Officer Snyder was the 10th member of the department to be killed on duty since the police force was created in 1955 out of the county sheriff’s office. Prior to Snyder’s death, the last officer killed in the St. Louis County Police Department was Sgt. Richard E. Weinhold, who died on the job on Oct. 31, 2000.
For the department, National Police Week has great meaning, said Wall. “We value tradition here and we are pretty ceremonial. National Police Week is huge for us.”
Also attending the ceremonies with the members of the department will be Officer Snyder’s wife and his brother-in-law, who is also a police officer, said Wall.
“His loss was devastating to the police department,” said Wall. “Most of the officers who are here had gone through 16 years without the death of a fellow officer. A majority of the department had never been through anything like that. It had a big impact.”
St. Louis County, Mo., also held its own Day of Remembrance for fallen officers throughout the county on April 28, Uniform Day, with ceremonies and a memorial breakfast.
During this National Police Week and on this National Peace Officers Memorial Day today, we at VirTra, the judgmental use of force training simulator company, wish to salute and thank the men and women who serve in police departments across our nation every day, putting their lives on the line to protect residents in their communities around the clock.
And to all of the fallen, we honor you and your families on this day and every day.
National Police Week and National Peace Officers Memorial Day were proclaimed in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy and were established by a joint resolution of Congress. National Police Week is principally organized by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the Fraternal Order of Police/Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary and by the Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) group.