Here are five facts about Peace Officers Memorial Day, which is held each year on May 15 to honor law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
1. Peace Officers Memorial Day was established in 1962. President John F. Kennedy signed the legislation that created the holiday. Thirty-two years later, the law was amended to require U.S. flags be flown at half-staff on May 15 in recognition of the holiday.
2. The holiday is now part of Police Week, an annual celebration held in Washington, DC. The commemoration typically draws 25,000-40,000 law enforcement officers, their families and other visitors to the city, where they participate in conferences, a candlelight vigil and other activities.
3. There are currently more than 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States. This is the highest figure ever, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. About 12 percent of those serving are female.
4. The nation’s first recorded police death occurred in 1786. On April 29 that year, Sheriff Benjamin Branch of Chesterfield County, VA, died when he was thrown from his horse. Since then, more than 22,000 law enforcement officers have died on the job. Their names are engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall in Washington.
5. The deadliest day in law enforcement history was Sept. 11, 2001. On this day, 72 officers were killed while responding to the terrorist attacks on America. More than 1,600 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 54 hours, or 163 per year. One hundred thirty-five law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty last year.