Thirteen years ago, a D.C. couple walked by a dilapidated memorial for local police officers. On Monday, their passion project turned into a reality when the newly renovated D.C. Police Memorial was unveiled.
D.C. officials laid a brightly colored wreath at the new wall and renovated fountain of the D.C. Police Memorial on Monday.
Days after announcing his departure as chief of the D.C. police, Robert Contee remarked on the importance of having a place to pay respects to the 125 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in D.C.’s police department.
“This memorial is part of our grieving process,” Contee said. “It honors those we lost far too soon. It reminds everyone who sees it, how courageous each person on this wall is.”
The couple who went on the walk was Don Blake and his wife, who, when seeing the state of the memorial, remarked to her husband, who had served as a D.C. officer, “You have to do something about that!”
That anecdote, according to Contee, set in motion a group of leaders from across the city to fund and renovate the memorial, which was originally constructed in the 1940s.
Funding a majority of the project is Don Graham, whose mother, Katherine Graham, was synonymous with the Washington Post as its publisher for over 28 years. And at a ceremony Monday, May 1, Graham unveiled the hard work and fundraising that went into the space, which he noted was completed on time, “a minor miracle in Washington, D.C.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke at the event and said, “I know I speak for all the leadership of MPD that we take seriously our responsibility as leaders to make sure that we’re creating a public safety environment where people want to come to work at MPD to do their job. And the chiefs from around the region, I’m sure, share the sentiment as well as the public officials. And we’re doing our level best to make sure that they get home at night.”
In attendance were the families of some of the officers who the city has lost in the line of duty, including Sergeant Hank Daly, who was shot and killed in 1994 when a gunman stormed into police headquarters and confronted him. The man shot and killed Daly and two FBI agents, Michael J. Miller and Martha Martinez. The man also wounded another FBI agent and a citizen before committing suicide. The building where D.C. police run their operations was later named after Daly.
“I was down here a couple of times,” said Mary Ann Daly, Daly’s widow, after the ceremony. “It was very old and dilapidated. So it really needed to be done. And the police officers, particularly in today’s times, really need to know their route tritiated. And I think it’s really a wonderful tribute to them.”
The granite memorial reflects a similar design to the nearby National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, however, it is distinctly meant for D.C. officers and their families to have a place to mourn and find peace, Daly noted.
The memorial sits in Judiciary Square downtown in the District, between the Henry J. Daly Building and Superior Court.
Editor’s Note: This story has been edited to reflect it was Don Blake who started the effort to restore the memorial.