Fallen police honored on Peace Officers Memorial Day

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Photo Gallery | Pittsfield Police Week Memorial ceremony

PITTSFIELD — A few dozen law enforcement officers, city dignitaries and community members braved the blustery cold weather Monday morning to warmly remember the men and women who have died in police service locally and nationally.

Sunday marked Peace Officers Memorial Day and the beginning of National Police Week, a time during which fallen officers are remembered by loved ones and comrades, and survivors can gather together in support and to celebrate the lives that have been lost in duty.

This week, volunteers from the Pittsfield Honor Guard will place some 120 flags on graves of police officers, from Great Barrington to North Adams, and will also travel on Wednesday morning to Springfield Technical Community College, where they will help post the colors at a memorial at the Western Mass Regional Police Academy.

"It's a big honor," said retired Detective Richard LeClair.

During Monday's Police Memorial Day ceremony in Pittsfield, he and retired Officer Raymond Bush, along with active Office Miles Barber, together raised the American and the POW-MIA flags to half-staff outside the city police department.

Both LeClair and Bush, each of whom served some 30 years in their field, said it's important to honor the people and families who have been related to the law enforcement field.

"For me, it's a way to keep involved with the guys, and doing things like this is good for the families too," Bush said.

Monday's ceremony included a processional of the Pittsfield Police and Berkshire County Sheriff's department honor guards. Mary Brinton of the Berkshire Highlanders performed "Misty Covered Mountains" on the bagpipes and sang a verse of "Amazing Grace."

City Police Chief Michael Wynn led the event, which included an invocation and benediction by Chaplain Russell Moody.

"Today we ask for the gifts of patience, strength and wisdom," Moody said. "As we carry out our responsibilities, help us to navigate our way with diligence, stand on our principles with unwavering resolve and be wise in our decision making."

The ceremony also included a proclamation by Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer; remarks by state Sen. Benjamin Downing; a performance of taps by Ray Kinsella of the Eagles Band and Dalton American Legion Post 155; and poems read by Detective Kim Bertelli-Hunt and Marissa Kirchner, representing the spouses and family members of the Pittsfield police.

Kirchner read "A Policeman was Killed Last Night," by Jim Cole. After reading one particular stanza — "A mom and dad have lost a son. So many other jobs he could've done. His wife and kids are left alone. Their daddy won't be coming home" — Kirchner took a solemn pause before continuing, as it illustrated the aftermath of the law enforcement fatality statistics.

According to data in the 2015 Law Enforcement Fatalities Report published back in December by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 124 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers were killed in the line of duty, a 4 percent increase from the previous year's reports.

Of the 124 officers who died, 52 died in traffic-related incidents, 42 were killed by gunfire and 30 died as a result of other causes, mostly heart attacks and other job-related incidents.

Chief Wynn noted that while Pittsfield hasn't lost an officer since 1988, at least 35 police officers have "paid the ultimate sacrifice" in the United States this year.

Mayor Tyer lauded the members of law enforcement on stage with her during Monday's ceremony, which included members from other local and state departments as well as Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless.

"There's a kindred spirit on this stage, of courage, training and dedication to keep us safe," Tyer said.

Downing said it's all too often taken for granted what law enforcement members risk each day they go to work.

"The least we can do as a community is to say thank you," he said, "to the [men and women] who try to make the community they call home a better place."

Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.


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