The Candle Seen Around the World

The microscopic virus that spurred a global pandemic has impacted every public event, regardless of how longstanding the tradition – including the 32nd Annual Candlelight Vigil, the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum’s flagship ceremony that honors the year’s fallen law enforcement officers. On March 18, 2020, the organization’s CEO, Marcia Ferranto, announced that no Washington, DC, annual Police Week events would not be held, but that the traditional Candlelight Vigil would be carry on virtually.

“You have our commitment that the fallen will not be forgotten, and we will not rest until they receive the honor that they so rightfully deserve,” Marcia Ferranto, CEO, NLEOMF

Less than two months later, on May 13, 2020, the virtual Candlelight Vigil was live streamed across 11 platforms, including those of the Memorial and Museum’s lead sponsor and broadcast partner, Verizon.

The resulting program proved that the law enforcement community of active and retired officers, surviving families and agencies, and the nation’s public is one that unifies even in the most extraordinary of circumstances to honor our fallen heroes.

Traditionally held on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and attended by 30,000 people each year, the Candlelight Vigil is marked by the announcement of all the officers whose names were added to the Memorial that year. Each of the officers added were killed in the line of duty the prior year or discovered during research.

In contrast, the virtual 32nd Annual Candlelight Vigil was viewed by more than 300,000 from all over the world that evening, with an additional 100,000 views over the following 48 hours. The video recording is still being shared, watched, and re-watched as this is being written. With the broadcast’s greatest viewership on Facebook, one can’t help but feel a part of something much bigger, as comments from all parts of the country and world streamed alongside the screen. The comments section was part roll call, part tribute wall, and a place of connection for all who were present.

Answering the call

Knowing that the audience of the virtual experience would include many unfamiliar with the traditional Candlelight Vigil, a plan was put together to create a virtual Vigil that included stories of the fallen and experiences from survivors and special tributes to lend context and impact to the traditional reading of the names that were engraved in the Memorial wall this year.

With limited time to pull the event together, staff at NLEOMF put out a call to actors, celebrities, government officials, and corporations that have a shared commitment to law enforcement. The call was answered by more than 40 such American icons, and thanks to long-time television producer, DC-based Lynn Kessler, the results cut right to the heart of the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum’s true north.

Stories from the field

The Vigil opened with the story of Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, the first observant Sikh in the Harris County, TX, Sheriff’s Office and the trailblazer who bridged communities. Dhaliwal was shot during a traffic stop and died September 27, 2019. Offering a glimpse into what made this deputy unique helped to give perspective as the names of the fallen were read during the Vigil.

Throughout the Vigil, viewers heard the emotional stories from survivors of fallen officers.  Detective Shawna McClure shared how she learned of her coworker, Officer Kerrie Orozco’s shooting and rushed to find her on the scene, only to watch her die in her arms. Julie Carnesi spoke of her big brother, K-9 Officer Kevin Tonn, her hero who loved dogs and always wanted to be in law enforcement. In the small town of Galt (CA) where he served, his death made a huge impact. Stacy Allan shared how much losing her husband and best friend, Lieutenant Aaron Allen, on their son’s first day of kindergarten, changed her life.

Roll call of heroes

Holding the Vigil virtually provided a deep opportunity for viewers to learn about the fallen during the traditional roll call of the heroes. As each fallen officer’s name was read, their image was displayed on the screen with their agency and end of watch date. This was a distinct change from the years past when the names were announced without any personal information on display. This was widely well received and helped to engage those viewers who weren’t personally connected to the recently fallen.

From the moment the virtual Vigil was announced, the support and appreciation from the law enforcement community for the Memorial has been palpable. Understanding messages have been posted and sent supporting the need to be virtual and appreciating the organization’s commitment to its mission of honoring the fallen and ensuring they are not forgotten. Regardless of the health crisis, the restrictions on public gatherings, or what else the future may hold, the National Law Enforcement Memorial and Museum will continue to deliver on its mission.

If you have not yet watched the 2020 Candlelight Vigil, you can access it here.

Making Space on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is running out of room. Dedicated in 1991, the Memorial currently contains the names of 21,910 officers who died in the line of duty. Those names include officers who have given their lives as a result of shootings, traffic crashes, or deaths as a result of a medical condition contracted while on the job, such as rare cancers contracted from helping with rescue and recovery operations in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Every year these fallen officers and other historical fallen officer deaths discovered through research, are immortalized on the walls of the Memorial. Sadly, the names keep coming.

“We’re embarking on an expansion project to insure we do not run out of space. We will never stop honoring the fallen,” said National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund CEO Marcia Ferranto. “Our mission is to make sure all officers who have died in the line of duty are never forgotten.”

At the current rate, the Memorial may run out of room within six years. To avoid that happening, the Memorial Fund is working with Davis Buckley Architects, designers of the original Memorial, on the design of the proposed expansion. The three-year expansion plan will add another 15 inches to the height of the existing curved Walls of Remembrance and is intended to serve the needs of the Memorial through 2063.

The expansion plan will also include a newly designed pathway from the Memorial to the adjacent National Law Enforcement Museum, which educates the public about the history of law enforcement and provides on-going programs relevant to the current issues facing law enforcement and the communities they serve.

“By uniting these two important structures into one entity, we are creating a single law enforcement campus. It is the nation’s only living memorial,” said Ms. Ferranto. “It symbolically unifies the core mission that we as an organization are already doing: honoring the fallen and educating the public about law enforcement and the heroism of these brave men and women who wake up each day to keep our nation safe.”

Work on the Memorial expansion is slated to begin in late 2020.

Spotlight on Law Enforcement July 2019

A deputy pulled over a car for speeding. That traffic stop saved a 12-day-old baby’s life

By Gianluca Mezzofiore, CNN Updated 4:00 PM ET, Fri July 12, 2019

When Deputy Will Kimbro stopped a car for speeding last month, he didn’t know he would end up saving a newborn’s life.

The dramatic episode, which took place during a routine patrol in Berkeley County, South Carolina on June 11, was caught on a newly released video recorded by the officer’s body camera.

As Kimbro stopped the vehicle, the driver got out of the car and shouted that the baby stopped breathing after drinking from a bottle, according to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office.

Her body was limp and blueish from lack of oxygen, the sheriff’s office said.
After asking the mother, who was sitting on the passenger’s seat, for the baby’s name, the deputy puts the baby on her lap, checks the pulse, and starts massaging her heart as part of lifesaving first aid.

“Come on baby, cry for me, cry for me,” he can be heard saying. “Open those eyes, sweetheart.”

As the baby starts crying, Kimbro says: “As long as she’s crying like that she’s breathing. I want you to cry. Come on.”

“I think she’s gonna be OK. She’s breathing,” the officer says to reassure the mother.

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Spotlight on Law Enforcement April 2019

Officer Kim Wood
Officer Kim Wood

Driver sends note saying ‘thanks for slowing me down’ to Middleton police officer

Channel 3000 | Apr 02, 2019 11:15 PM CDT

MIDDLETON, Wis. – A Middleton police officer received an unexpected thank you note this week from a driver.

The note said Officer Kim Wood stopped the driver for speeding in a 35 mph section of County Highway M.

“While not ‘above and beyond’ I want to thank Officer Wood for slowing me down in my rush to get back to my office,” the note said. “My speed was more than a little exuberant.”

The stop made the driver rethink driving on the highway.

“Since then I have been mindful of the speed and enjoying the scenery, though cars behind me do not always seem to share my appreciation,” the note said. “May all traffic stops result in drivers rethinking their actions.”

The police department was grateful for the rare thank you note and said it was “another fine example of the little things we do every day that make a difference.”

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Spotlight on Law Enforcement February 2019

February 2019 Officer Spotlight

Sheriff’s deputy building relationships one bicycle at a time

By Jennifer Franciotti, News Anchor, Reporter, WBALTV, February 7, 2019

For the last two years, Khalid Mitchell has bought bicycles that are given away as prizes at a high school basketball game.

Mitchell is a senior deputy with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, and he’s the school resource officer at Joppatowne High School.

“(It’s all) for the kids. Everything is for the kids,” Mitchell said.

Thanks to Mitchell, a 12-year-old girl has a new bicycle.

“It was kind of surprising because you would think kids would get candy, but you got a bike,” said Kimani Davenport, who won the bicycle.

Kimani, along with another young boy, recently won bicycles during a basketball game where Mitchell and a teacher hosted the second annual Good Citizenship Contest as a way to give kids a positive interaction with law enforcement officers.

“Community is first with me, and I think how you affect and change a community, you have to start with the young ones,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell pays for the bikes out of his own pocket but said it’s totally worth it.

“That’s a small sacrifice for the results you get out of something like this,” Mitchell said.

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Spotlight on Law Enforcement January 2019

(Megan O’Grady) Megan O’Grady started Blue Line Bears two years ago. She makes and delivers teddy bears to the families of fallen police officers.

Teen makes personalized teddy bears for families of fallen police officers

Megan O’Grady not only makes the bears but travels to deliver them.

By Enjoli Francis and Susan Schwartz,  ABC News, January 4, 2019

This new year, one Florida teen is pushing forward with her mission to ensure that the families and particularly children of fallen law enforcement officers have a little something to cuddle to help them remember their loved ones.

Megan O’Grady, 16, of Cape Coral, Florida, runs the nonprofit organization Blue Line Bears, which makes and delivers personalized teddy bears.

This week, she and her parents traveled to Denver to deliver bears that she’d made for the family of Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Heath Gumm, 32, who was killed while on duty in January 2018.

Using the uniform shirt of the fallen officer, which she gets from relatives or the police department, O’Grady sews and stuffs bears that wear miniature versions of the uniforms including the officer’s name, badge number and even department.

It takes O’Grady, a high school junior, up to two days to complete each bear.

“Part of the reason that I started this was because there’s such a negativity towards police. … It has really lifted my spirits knowing that there are so many people out there who really care about police.”

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Spotlight on Law Enforcement November 2018

Korean War Veteran Gets Home Makeover Thanks to DC Officer, Nonprofit

Korean War Veteran Gets Home Makeover Thanks to DC Officer, Nonprofit

By Mark Segraves and Christian Paz, NBC4 – Washington, November 12, 2018

Sgt. Juanita Eccles was on duty when Pfc. Thomas Pressley first stumbled into a police station asking for her help.

Eccles recalled, “He comes in and he just says, ‘please, please, can I get some help?'”

Pressley, a Korean War veteran, was hungry and haggard, Eccles remembered. She used her own money to buy Pressley some food that day but realized that his troubles ran deeper than that when she visited Pressley’s home.

“The mold was higher than your hip. And the floors you couldn’t walk on because you’d fall through. The contractor went upstairs and said ‘the toilet is sinking through the floor’,” she said.

Pressley’s house was in complete disrepair. Photos of Pressley’s old home showed crumbling ceilings, dirt and grime on almost every surface and paint chipping from the walls.

And on top of that: Eccles said she learned from a nephew of Pressley’s that the veteran had been a victim of financial elder abuse and his entire life savings had been stolen.

So Eccles resolved to fix the situation. Eccles partnered with D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau and local non-profit Purple Heart Homes, which works to improve the lives of veterans experiencing housing insecurity, and corporate sponsors like Home Depot and Comcast, a parent company of News4, to repair and refurbish Pressley’s home.

“This is a godsend. Money can’t buy this when someone has that kind of love,” Pressley said.

And finally, on Monday, Pressley got the keys to his new home in the same building he had been living in for 56 years.

“I feel like this is part of heaven on earth,” he said.

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Spotlight on Law Enforcement October 2018

Fla. Cops Get 'Delicious' Reward After Finding Stolen Doughnut Van

Fla. Cops Get ‘Delicious’ Reward After Finding Stolen Doughnut Van

By NBC4 – Washington, October 17, 2018

The store manager donated the cargo of Krispy Kreme to the Clearwater police officers

It was a lucky day for some Florida police officers who recovered a stolen van filled with Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The Clearwater Police Department posted a photo on Facebook of a group of officers standing in front of the van holding boxes of the tasty treats.

Clearwater police said the van was reported stolen Tuesday morning in Lake City, which is 193 miles north of Clearwater. It was spotted, loaded with doughnuts, at Crest Lake Park Tuesday afternoon.

The Facebook posting says the store manager donated the cargo of “delicious” doughnuts to the officers. They saved some doughnuts to eat and handed out the rest to the area’s homeless.

Spotlight on Law Enforcement September 2018

Sept 2018 Law Enforcement Spotlight

Hammond police escort girl, 5, to chemotherapy treatment

By Megan Hickey, HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) — September 10, 2018

Monday, a 5-year-old cancer patient from Hammond, Indiana is getting her second-to-last chemo treatment, and she’s getting a special escort to the hospital in Indianapolis.

Sammy left for Indianapolis with her group of Hammond police officer escorts and she was wide awake and so excited for her trip.

She arrived to find police lights flashing in front of the police department. She gave everyone a big hug and showed us her special outfit and talked about her first ever ride in a police squad car.

She was diagnosed with eye cancer when she was just 3 months old. She ultimately had to have one eye replaced, and then unfortunately the cancer returned.

Sammy’s mom Diana Barr said she’s overwhelmed by the support.

“She laughed, she said ‘Mommy, have you ever been in a cop car?’ I said, ‘Nope, I guess this is a first time for everything,'” she said.

After the appointment, they’re hoping to take her to lunch and maybe a little shopping trip. Sammy said she wants a teddy bear with a bow on it like the one she’s wearing Monday.

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Spotlight on Law Enforcement August 2018

Officer's act of kindness caught on video
Officer’s act of kindness caught on video

A homeless man needed a little help to land a job. So this officer gave him a shave

Going above and beyond the call of duty, one Florida officer helped a man get a clean shave so he could land a job. The act of kindness was caught on camera and shared on social media. – By Amanda Jackson, CNN July 24, 2018

Tallahassee Police Officer Tony Carlson said he noticed a man having some issues with his razor outside of a gas station on Sunday.

“He asked me if I knew anything about fixing a razor cause it was broken,” said Officer Carlson in a video posted on Monday. “I looked at it and it was missing a screw. Obviously, I didn’t have another screw so I just tighten up the other one to the point it would work.”

The man, whom Carlson identified only as Phil, was homeless. He told the officer he needed to shave so he could get a job at a local fast food restaurant. Now with the working razor, Phil tried shaving, but without a mirror, it was hard to do. So Officer Carlson shaved his beard for him.

Greg Wallenfelsz happened to be at the gas station as the scene was unfolding, and he captured it on video.

“I thought it would be nice to share with others this selfless act of kindness this officer showed this stranger,” he told CNN.

Kelly Duvall’s daughter also took a picture outside the gas station, and Kelly shared it on social media and with the police department.

“One officer’s simple act of kindness is touching so many lives, it is amazing,” Duvall told CNN.

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