National Police Week at Edwards culminated in front of the Air Force Test Center Headquarters Building May 16 with an End of Watch ceremony.
Earlier that week, 412th Security Forces Squadron personnel participated in a 24-hour vigil to symbolize fallen officers and military members around the country.
“It started at 9 a.m. on Monday and went until 9 a.m. Tuesday. We had two of our defenders take one hour shifts for the whole 24 hours and walk around the track with our squadron guidon,” said Senior Airman Philip Hamlett, 412th SFS, Police Services.
After the vigil, the squadron decided to “have a little bit more fun” by hosting a field day barbecue with the Office of Special Investigations, the U.S. Marshalls and several other agencies around base.
“This week encapsulates everything that it is to be a law enforcement officer in one sense,” said Hamlett. “In another sense, we get to pay homage to everyone that came before us and, unfortunately, paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
During the End of Watch ceremony, Airman 1st Class Geremi Long, 412th SFS, entry controller, offered a brief history of police week and Peace Officer’s Memorial Day.
May 15 was first designated Peace Officer’s Memorial Day in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation to honor the men and women in law enforcement and those who have died in the line of duty. The law was amended in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act to display flags at half-staff on May 15 each year.
Though the calendar dates may change from year to year, the week surrounding Peace Officer’s Memorial Day is recognized as police week.
Lt. Col. Leonard Rose, 412th SFS commander, shared that in preparing for the End of Watch ceremony he found “a lot of similarities between test pilots and law enforcement.”
When he began to research the aviation history at Edwards he found Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier, Maj. Robert White becoming the first aircraft pilot to earn his astronaut wings when he took the X-15 over 314,000 feet and Maj. Pete Knight who flew the fastest manned aircraft flight in the SR-71 reaching Mach 6.72.
What he found was, like law enforcement officers, pilots risk their lives daily.
He shared the story of Tech. Sgt. Robert Butler, who on January 11, 1998, was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop on base.
“When [pilots] go up every day and risk their lives it’s an ultimate battle between man and machine and the laws of physics,” said Rose. “When law enforcement goes out every day for the simplest traffic stop, it’s a battle between man and man, another human being who can think and either be rational and plan out how they want to harm you or be irrational and do something completely unexpected.”
Staff Sgt. Thomas Roach, 412th SFS, desk sergeant, served as the master of ceremonies that day. He shared that the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., holds the names of all those who have fallen in the line of duty.
To recognize the local officers who had sacrificed their lives, a small memorial wreath was displayed and a representative of each local law enforcement agency placed an additional carnation on the wreath. After placing their flowers, each person read the names of the officers they wanted to recognize with the carnations.
“The white carnations symbolize the purity of the officer’s intention to respond to the nation’s call so that citizens may remain free and safe,” said Roach. “The additional red carnations, which our brother officers will place on the wreath, are a reminder of the men and women who will be greatly missed and will always be remembered.”