Midway through the nationally acclaimed “Police Week” is National Peace Officers Memorial Day, so designated in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy as day to recognize and honor the men and women in law enforcement who have died in the line of duty.
“Honor” was very much the appropriate word for what the crowd gathered at the Memorial adjacent to the Creek County Courthouse experienced on Wednesday evening.
While people were milling about just before 7:00pm, the far-off beat of a steady drum began, and then grew louder. Officers present and the families of the slain, and the spectators who had gathered to pay their respects, stopped and turned to the small parade making it’s way down Dewey Avenue.
The Tulsa Pipes and Drums lead an ensemble of Honor Guard carrying a special flag for the occasion. After an opening prayer by the Chaplain, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, Tulsa Pipes and Drums played a rendition of “Grand Old Flag” in that familiar bagpipe sound.
The ceremony was emcee’d by Fox 23 reporter Tiffany Alaniz, who jokingly said that she “had harsh words with the meteorologists” before leaving the studio, referring to the possibility of rain during the event.
But the rain held off as Alaniz introduced Creek County Judge Pamela Hammers, who began by stating that as part of next Monday’s City Council Meeting, there would be an item on the agenda dedicated to adding two names to the memorial: Lieutenant Trey Brenon Pritchard, and Trooper William Lloyd McClendon. “These officers were not killed in Creek County, but they had ties to Creek County, and their names belong here,” Hammers said.
Continuing on the topic of honor, Hammers recited the officer’s oath, and stated, “these men and women took an oath and lived it out everyday. They were living it when they died.” Later, she posited the question: “how can we continually honor their lives and their deaths?”
She remarked how in today’s age of internet and social media, it’s easy to hear all the bad news about law enforcement and gain a cynical view of a the profession as a whole. “We have to close that divide between the officers and the people they protect,” she said.
Hammers recounted a famous story of police officers who were called to deal with some teenagers accused of playing basketball loudly in the street. Instead of putting an end to their game, the officers played and lost a game with them, but promised to be back the next day for a rematch.
And come back they did, with a new secret weapon—former NBA Star Shaquille O’Neal. We’ve included the full video below.
“What these officers did,” Hammers says after finishing the story, “is to close the divide. These are examples of changing the perception of law enforcement that’s become so pervasive in our country.”
After Hammers’ speech was over, the fallen officers were remembered in a ceremony during which family members were given a single red rose and escorted by officers down the sidewalk to place it on the memorial. On either side, officers with rifles stood, heads bowed in respect of their fallen comrades.
In her closing statement, Hammers reminded those present to make it a point to honor law enforcement regularly; “We can’t just do this once a year. It’s our duty to continually look for ways to close that divide, and show others how honorable that profession could be. This is how the living can honor the fallen.”
Featured Image: An unidentified man reads the names of the fallen at the Peace Officers Memorial Day ceremony.