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Memorial in Blue

Arlington police come together to honor officers local and national killed in the line of duty.

The thin blue line was thick with uniforms on Friday, as Arlington Police Department officers and commanders joined Arlington Sheriff’s Department deputies, police honor guards from around the region and local elected officials to observe Peace Officers Memorial Day.

Wreaths and flowers were memorials on Friday, May 14, in the plaza between the courthouse and the jail on North Courthouse Road. But police Capt. Mary Gavin told the audience the county hopes soon to have a more permanent memorial to Arlington’s fallen officers.

“I think there’s a passion from the officers to connect with the past, and to honor these heroes,” Gavin said Monday. “It’s recognizing the ultimate sacrifice.”

Plans for the memorial depict the six-foot-tall statue of a lone officer, standing at attention, with the names of the five Arlington police officers killed in the line of duty inscribed on the base. The memorial cost is estimated at $100,000.

Half of that could come from a federal grant the department is seeking through the U.S. Justice Department’s Law Enforcement Tribute Act, Gavin said, and the other half being raised through private fundraisers.

“This probably should have been done earlier,” said Gavin.

The last Arlington officer killed in the line of duty died in 1977.

“But we have the opportunity now, and the timing is right.”

<b>THE YEARS SINCE</b> an officer was killed is a blessing, said Police Chief Doug Scott. “We’re fortunate that it’s been 27 years since the department’s last line-of-duty fatality.”

But it doesn’t lessen the need for a ceremony honoring fallen officers past and present, in Arlington and around the country, said Shirley Gibson. In 1996, Gibson’s son Brian, an officer with the Metropolitan D.C. Police Department, was shot and killed while sitting at a stop light in his cruiser.

“Departments blessed by not having an officer killed in the line of duty: Remember those departments that have,” Gibson, a member of the Concerns of Police Survivors national board of trustees, told Arlington officers.

<b>IN THE PAST WEEK,</b> events around the Washington region have driven home the need for concern, said Scott. In particular, Scott pointed to the May 9 death of Maryland State Trooper Anthony Jones, who was killed on duty, hit by a drunk driver.

“Each day, officers start their day knowing they will put their life on the line,” Scott said.

That risk is appreciated by area citizens, said U.S. Rep. James Moran (D-8). “This community is all to anxious to share how proud they are of the people who serve for them. Your service and sacrifice symbolize the vaues this great nation holds dear.”

<b>MORAN TOOK</b> the opportunity to address the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. The abuse, documented in photos now splashed across newspaper front pages each day, shows “what happens when people entrusted with protection lose sight of their responsibilities,” said Moran.

Those abuses must be prosecuted, Moran said. But in the long-term, when America’s allies and enemies overseas recoil at those sights, Moran said, “we need to show off what we are really about, as a nation. We need to show off the best.”

Pointing to the police officers listening, and portraits of the five Arlington officers killed in the line of duty, Moran said, “This is what America’s about.

Raising the specter of Abu Ghraib was not inappropriate, said Eugene Miller, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Northern Virginia chapter 35. “I don’t think that was disrespectful,” he said. Moran “touched on politics and left it alone,” ending by praising Arlington police.