Englewood’s mayor and members of the police department attended the May 15 ceremonies where the name of Englewood Detective Jeremy Bitner was among the 142 added to the National Fallen Officers Memorial.
“Attending that ceremony was the most rewarding thing I have ever done,” Englewood Police Chief John Collins said. “It was very emotional and, at the same time, it was very painful as we shared the emotions of the families of all those fallen officers.”
Collins, five police officers and Englewood Mayor Randy Penn attended the ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“The families of the 142 officers whose names were being added to the memorial were seated near the front of the audience and there were probably more than 20,000 police officers in uniform in the stands,” Collins said. “There were officers from all over the U.S. as well as a number of foreign countries.”
He said the name of each fallen officer was read and a uniformed officer escorted a member of the fallen officer’s family who placed a rose on the star at the memorial.
The ceremony included a speech by President Obama.
“The president talked for a few minutes and then left the podium and met with each member of the surviving families,” Penn said. “That had to be a special moment for those who had lost loved ones.”
“That was a class act,” he said. “The president took time to shake hands and talk with each member of those families. I believe Jeremy’s wife got a hug from the president.”
Penn said he felt honored to be able to attend the ceremonies honoring Bitner. Chief Collins also said he felt honored and will try to make sure one or two Englewood officers attend the ceremonies each year to show support for fellow law enforcement officers and agencies who lose members killed in the line of duty.
Bitner was hit and killed by a car while he was making a traffic stop on May 28, 2012. He is the first Englewood officer to have his name placed on the national memorial.
The national memorial was established in 1981. The earliest name on the memorial is of an officer killed in 1791. With the addition of the 142 names on May 15, there are now almost 20,000 names on the memorial.
The May 15 ceremonies are part of almost a week of events honoring fallen officers. There was a candlelight vigil at the memorial on May 13. Collins said there were at least 10,000 uniformed police officers and at least that many others at the vigil who, at a signal, raised their lighted candles. He said it was a memorable sight to see.
There were seminars and sessions where police officers could talk about their feelings about a fellow officer who was killed in the line of duty.
The ceremonies unveiling the names are held May 15, which is National Peace Officers Memorial Day, established in 1962 by President Kennedy.