Officer First Class Adrian A. Morris had been a member of the Prince George’s County Police Department for only two years when he was killed in an automobile accident on Interstate 95 in Beltsville, Md., in August 2012.
Morris was among 120 police officers nationwide who died last year who were remembered during National Police Week activities held this week in Washington D.C. The commemoration kicked off with preliminary events the previous week, including the annual Blue Mass May 7 at St. Patrick Church in Northwest and the Washington Area Law Enforcement Memorial Service on May 10.
The big event of the official week, which runs through May 18, was a candlelight vigil on May 13 at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Judiciary Square, near D.C. police headquarters, in Northwest Washington.
Morris, who was 23 when he died, was among 321 law enforcement officials from around the country whose names were added to the memorial wall this year.
Those men and women, including 201 who died in previous years, were recognized for their sacrifice in a poignant ceremony where United States Attorney General Eric Holder led the lighting of the candles and reading of the names of the fallen officers.
As many as 20,000 people were estimated to have attended the vigil. They included officers, law enforcement officials, survivors of the fallen officers and their supporters. The event was shown via live webcast to many thousands more.
“Although no words, and no ceremony, can erase the pain we feel at each tragic and untimely loss, my hope is that the families, friends, and colleagues of these fallen heroes can find peace in the certain knowledge that they died doing what they loved,” Holder told the crowd. “They helped to make this world a far better, and safer, place,” he said. “And, despite the fact that these brave officers were taken from us far too suddenly—and far too soon—their legacies, and contributions, will always endure.”
Locally, seven officers died in 2012, including Morris, from Prince George’s and Officer Forrest Edward “Dino” Taylor, 44, a 17-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department. Taylor died when an automobile ran a red light and struck his patrol car.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial contains the names of every officer killed since the first death was recorded in 1791, officials said. With the addition of the 2012 names, the memorial now pays homage to 19,981 fallen law enforcement officials.
National Police Week is held each year to pay tribute to the men and women who risk their lives every day. The commemorations began in 1962 after President John F. Kennedy designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week including that day Police Week, officials said.
Each year, more than 25,000 police officers and their supporters from across the country travel to the nation’s capital to participate in activities, which also include a memorial bike ride and conferences for families of slain officers.
But no matter what the activity, the central focus is always on the officers who were lost the previous year. The casualties from 2012 represent a decrease from the 165 officers who died in 2011 and the 154 who were lost in 2010, officials said.
“The law enforcement community has banded together with laser-like focus on peace officer safety at the federal, state and local levels and I believe these numbers are reflective of those combined efforts,” said Craig W. Floyd, chairman and CEO of the memorial fund, in a statement. “By continuing to work together in this fashion we can make great strides to ensure that each officer returns home safely at the end of his or her shift.”
Of the deceased officers, 50, including Morris and Taylor, were traffic fatalities; 49 were killed by gunfire. The others died of a variety of causes including stabbings, falls, beatings and accidents involving airplanes, helicopters and boats, according to the NLEOMF website.
The average age of the officers who made the ultimate sacrifice was 41; the average number of years they had been in service was 17, the statistics show.
The candlelight ceremony opened with a presentation of the colors by the United States Park Police, followed by the national anthem sung by Arizona Department of Corrections Sgt. Katina Murphy. The invocation was led by Chaplain Reginald H. Wilborn of the Atlanta Police Department. There were musical tributes throughout the evening performed by officers from around the country.
Other vigil dignitaries included Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and local police chiefs including Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts, Prince George’s Police Chief Mark Magaw and D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier.