Prior to National Police Week each year, names are engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial that include officers who were killed in the line of duty the previous year, as well others who were killed in previous years but recently discovered.
When the final list of names for engraving is approved, test strips are created to physically inspect the layout of the names on the Memorial walls. Memorial Fund staff places the paper strips onto the wall panels to ensure each panel has the correct number of names. Any corrections are made before the list is sent to the engravers.
The engravers begin the process on the panel where the final name was engraved the previous year. This panel is known as the “pick up” panel. An adhesive stencil with names is laid on the panel with careful attention to ensure the names will be engraved at the proper distance from the line of names above, as well as the sides of the panel. The stencil is then surrounded by materials designed to protect the rest of the Memorial wall from the engraving process.
Each line of stencil is sandblasted from multiple angles to create each letter. The letters are then measured using a micrometer to ensure a uniform depth. Engraving the letters to 0.1-inch deep creates a natural shadow providing contrast to the wall. Once the line of stencil passes a final test for depth, the surrounding materials and stencil are removed and that panel of new names is complete. The process is then repeated around the Memorial until all the new names have been successfully engraved.
The goal is to ensure that each name on the Memorial is engraved with the utmost care so that the integrity of each name is forever maintained. Memorial maintenance is important and the process is designed to ensure our nation’s monument to law enforcement service and sacrifice remains a place of honor, dignity and beauty.
All newly-engraved names on the Memorial are formally dedicated during the annual Candlelight Vigil on the evening of May 13, part of the National Police Week observance. More than 30,000 people attend the event on the National Mall in Washington, DC, each year. In addition, the vigil is webcast live online, allowing family members, colleagues and others who cannot make it to Washington, DC, to experience the ceremony in their communities.