Every year in May, we observe National Police Week to remember and honor fallen police officers. If your family or local police department recently lost an officer, you may be thinking about some of the best ways to pay tribute to their sacrifice. Here are eight ideas for how to honor a fallen police officer in your community or home.
1. Hold a candlelight memorial service.
One of the most beautiful, poignant ways to honor a fallen police officer is with a candlelight vigil. It’s a good opportunity for family, friends, coworkers, and other community members to come together and support each other outside of a more formal funeral setting. Candlelight services are typically held outdoors, at a memorial site or another public place like a park. Every year The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund presents a candlelight vigil for fallen officers as part of National Police Week events in Washington, D.C.
2. Display a Thin Blue Line Flag at your home.
You can simultaneously honor your fallen officer and show support to other police officers by displaying a thin blue line flag at your home. The flag either has a solid black background with a blue line, or it looks like a black and white American flag with one single stripe of blue, which represents solidarity and respect for police officers. The thin blue line flag was established as a symbol for all law enforcement personnel, just as the red cross symbolizes all medical personnel. You could fly it on a flagpole, hang it in a window, display a picture of it on a yard sign, or use it in a wreath on the door.
3. Participate in Project Blue Light over the holidays.
Many people choose to remember a fallen officer they loved and respected during the holiday season by displaying a single blue light in one of their windows. This movement, called Project Blue Light, started in 1989 and has gained popularity each year within the survivors community.
4. Observe National Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day.
In 1962 President John F. Kennedy designated May 15 as a nation-wide day to honor fallen local, state, and federal peace officers. Local communities often observe National Police Week with their own memorial services and events, while national organizations like C.O.P.S. host a week-long event specifically for survivors in Washington D.C. Families, friends, and co-workers of the deceased can attend grief counseling and support groups, services, and community-building events like picnics during National Police Week.
5. Visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Even if you can’t attend National Police Week events, it can still be a powerful part of the healing process to visit Washington D.C. and see the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in person. Every police officer killed in the line of duty has their name inscribed on the memorial wall.
6. Create a scrapbook of memories.
In addition to some of the more public, community-based events, it can be helpful to do something more personal to honor a fallen police officer. Compiling photos, favorite mementos, and written anecdotes in a scrapbook is a special way to keep the memory of your loved one or coworker alive even after they are gone.
7. Display flowers, wreaths, and other mementos seasonally at their headstone.
Another solitary way to honor a fallen police officer is to leave flowers or mementos at their gravesite when you visit. Keeping this physical representation of the person you lost looking beautiful can offer a way to connect with your memories of them. The organization Fallen Heroes Wreath Program Arizona leaves a wreath at the gravesite of every fallen Arizona law enforcement officer and firefighter during the holidays. Participating in laying wreaths for fallen police officers in your local area could be a powerful way to honor the person you are missing.
8. When you feel ready, do some of the activities they loved.
Last but not least, doing things that make you feel close to the person you lost is one of the best ways to remember them after they have passed. Celebrating the life they lived helps to honor the sacrifice they made.
C.O.P.S. Arizona is dedicated to rebuilding shattered lives of survivors and co-workers affected by line of duty deaths. We offer programs and scholarships for survivors in our local Arizona chapter. For more information, visit https://www.copsarizona.org/.