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Posted on Thu, May 9, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Memorials honor police officers who have lost their lives

By Rich Kinsey

West Bloomfield police Officer Patrick J. O’Rourke had reached the end of his shift on Sept. 9, 2012, but decided to assist officers responding to a shots fired complaint. The truth be told, a verified shots fired call is a “hot” call and any officer available is going to help their brothers and sisters in blue to bring that kind of call to a safe conclusion. There is usually safety in numbers — not that night.

orourke_police_memorial.jpg

A black band is put over the badge of police officers in memory of West Bloomfield Police Officer Patrick O'Rourke Sept. 14 before the start of his funeral at St. John Evangelist Church in Fenton.

Ryan Garza | MLive

Upon arrival at the scene, family members told the officers they had called because they were worried about their loved one who they believed was suicidal. Officers headed to where the man was located inside the house and knocked on the door of the room he was in. The officers were met with rifle fire that easily penetrated the wall and door.

While trying to make contact with that despondent man, to try to save his life, Officer O’Rourke lost his own life. Officer O’Rourke sustained a fatal gunshot wound in the neck. O’Rourke was 39 years old, a 12-year veteran of the West Bloomfield Police Department and left behind a wife and four young children.

Officer O’Rourke was the first officer of the West Bloomfield Police Department killed in the line of duty. He was the only Michigan police officer killed in 2012 but joins 563 other Michigan officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice over the years. Officer O’Rourke was one of 120 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in the United States during 2012, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Have you ever seen a police officer’s badge draped with a black or a black and blue striped ribbon? That is a police officer’s badge of mourning. It may mean several things, but it always means there has been a death in the law enforcement community.

Either an active officer on that department has died whether in the line of duty or not — or — a Michigan police officer has been killed in the line of duty. The badge of mourning is properly worn until the fallen officer has been laid to rest.

Another tradition in some police departments is placing a blue light in a front window of the police station. The timing of the blue light coincides with the traditions as the badge of mourning. It is lit from the time of an officer’s death until their funeral.

I have seen citizens come in to police stations with the lone blue light and approach the front desk to ask about it, when they look at it closer and find the photograph of a police officer under the light with the officer’s name and either “Rest In Peace” or “End of Watch” and the date of death. The citizen then stops, looks at the light and sheepishly either nods at the desk officer or says something like, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Behind the scenes when a Michigan police officer dies, officers pass a hat during briefing or place an envelope for donations on a bulletin board for officers to donate to the family of the officer who died. Similar collections are taken up for officers in peril with debilitating injuries or severe illness. I do not recall many months that went by at the Ann Arbor Police Department where an envelope was not on the board for some officer or their family who needed assistance somewhere in the area.

Those donations envelopes were usually full of cash. I do not remember ever seeing such envelopes at non-police jobs I have held, although I am sure firefighters and military personnel probably fill similar envelopes for families in need.

Next week you may see badges of mourning and blue lights in police stations, but hopefully it will not be for an officer who fell during the week but for those who have gone in the past.

May 15 is National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day and next week is National Police Week. In 1962 President Kennedy and Congress established these two observances, to honor the men and women of law enforcement, like Officer O’Rourke, who lost their lives in the line of duty while protecting us.

In Washtenaw County a ceremony commemorating National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day will take place at 10 a.m. May 15 at the Washtenaw 100 Club Memorial Park on Michigan Avenue at Ballard in Ypsilanti. The Eastern Michigan University Department of Public Safety is the local sponsor for this year’s observance.

Next week, please take a moment to think and perhaps even say a prayer for the men and women of law enforcement. Reflect on the fact that every moment, of every day that you draw breath, there are those who have probably never met you, but have sworn a solemn oath to protect you and perhaps even lay down lives to keep you safe.

In Michigan, the state motto “Tuebor” meaning “we defend” is found on the badge placed over each officer’s heart. Next week, please remember the 564 brave souls who have given their lives to keep that promise and fulfill that oath.

If you are so moved, take the time to send a card of appreciation to your local police department, join the Washtenaw 100 Club (http://washtenaw100.org/index.asp), make a donation to the Thin Blue Line of Michigan (http://www.tblofmi.com) or just give the officer on patrol a smile and friendly wave.

For all the officers, deputies, troopers and agents who protect us: Thank you and stay safe.

Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com.

Comments

Cendra Lynn

Fri, May 10, 2013 : 4:19 a.m.

There are never enough or the right words to say that express our gratitude for your dedication and your sacrifices. This is both to our Police and our Fire Departments. Your commitment, your integrity, and your professionalism is always more than we truly appreciate. As a Volunteer in Service for the Police I have the opportunity to be more aware of all that you do than the so-called average citizen. When you've answered my few distress calls over the years, I have felt safe and cared for. My heart stopped when three of you Police ran into the apartment on Packard to bring out the woman trapped by fire because we (the City) had not enabled Fire to be able to get there more quickly. Probably the best words to say to all of you is, simply, Thank You.

mady

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

Thank you, Rich. As always, another good column. from here on in, when I see a cop car pass, I will salute.

lefty48197

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

How sad that you can lose your life simply for doing your job.

Solitude

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

An excellent reminder. Another volunteer organization that provides assistance to surviving family of officers is Concerns of Police Survivors, or COPS. The Michigan chapter website: http://www.mi-cops.org/. Say an extra prayer this week for the family of the 29 yr. old Westland firefighter that was killed yesterday when a burning roof collapsed on him. He had a wife and an infant at home. RIP.

lefty48197

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

When there's a fire, or gun fire, or human suffering, you've got to admire those that run towards the scene while the rest of us run away.

4Bells

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 12:05 p.m.

We can never appreciate, respect and honor our courageous and dedicated men and women that protect us every day sufficiently. They serve and protect us, never knowing what danger they may face from moment-to-moment. We should thank them every day. Next week, make an opportunity to demonstrate your thanks in some way and pause to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty "to defend" you and me. Tuebor!