Police Week, to go or not to go? That often seems to be the question every cop has debated at least once in their career. Hopefully I can help you solve that riddle.
First of all, as a police officer, you owe it to yourself to make the trip to OUR memorial at least once in your career. The National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington DC was established, in large part, off the backs of Detective Donald J Guilfoil (Suffolk County) and former US Representative Mario Biaggi, who was also former NYPD. Mr Biaggi, who was injured 11 times in the line of duty, retired after 23 years of service as one of the most decorated police officers in NYPD history.
While the memorial sits on what is considered federal land, it receives ZERO tax dollar funding. Basically, our federal government said, “Sure. You can have your memorial. We’re just not paying for it”. This makes OUR memorial the only of it’s kind: Federally approved and completely privately funded. The work that has gone into the memorial’s creation and maintenance, alone, dictates your visit.
I would make a suggestion, however. Make two trips. National Police Week is an experience unto itself. When you pack 40,000+ people, the vast majority of which are police officers, into a geographically small area, the intimacy of the moment suffers. National Police Week is about the fraternity, plain and simple.
Beginning that Saturday with our Police Unity Tour riders arriving at the memorial, the entire week embodies everything that is the brotherhood. There is somber remembrance with the addition of the previous years line of duty deaths being added to the memorial wall. There is the Candlelight Vigil. There are parades. There are awards dinners. More than anything else, there are glasses raised, stories shared and the overwhelming feeling of family that can only be generated from being around those who truly understand what we do.
Personal side note: If you do attend during National Police Week, take the opportunity to witness the ‘Midnight Piper’, who will serenade our lost in the wee hours of the morning, to little audience and with even less fanfare. It will be one of the more humbling experiences of your lifetime, let alone the week. Regardless of why you THOUGHT you came, it is an instant and undeniable reminder of why you did.
The FOP sponsored Tent City, this year same as last year located by the old RFK Stadium, is another reason to make a visit during National Police Week. Besides the endless rows of police-related vendors whose sole focus is our profession, there is networking like nowhere else. Anyone who has ever attended a PBA convention will tell you that those become more about politicking and making sure you are at the right dinner table saying the right things to the right person. Tent City in DC is the polar opposite. It is a place for the cops who have made the trip to let loose in an environment of their own and to meet professionals in our field and who support our profession, free of the political pressures and titles.
National Police Week aside, as I suggested before, make a second trip at some point. Everyone’s reason for being a police officer is different, as is everyone’s perspective. What you will take away from your visit will vary. However, you will be hit on a more personal level experiencing the memorial ‘off-season’ and away from the crowds. Your second trip (or first depending on which you do first) will be a completely different kind of visit. Being able to sit and take in the gravity of what you are in the presence of, as it applies to what you do for a living, is only something you can properly absorb in the absence of huge crowds.
Brothers Before Others will, once again, be hosting several tents at Tent City. We will be joined by our partners/sponsors Proud Pig, Jonny Castro, Copper Gear, 911 Specialties and more. We look forward to meeting the faces behind the membership that, due to geographical constraints, haven’t been able to attend most of our events.
If I can close with a ‘Bro Tip’ for the rookies making the journey to DC that week: Before you set out to enjoy a night on the town, please check your look in the mirror. I will forgive your millennial-made-famous skinny jean look. If you feel like dressing like Ryan Seacrest is cool, who am I to say otherwise? Do you. However, do us all a favor and leave the burners and badges at home. As someone who has dabbled in the union business, I can tell you that wearing your gun or badge to a bar or while you are out drinking is a recipe for disaster. Even under necessary circumstances, using your weapon with alcohol in your system is never appropriate. Hence: you don’t need it. We all know you’re a cop. There’s nothing BUT cops down there that week. So, check your look in the mirror, if any of this is you, fix it.
I hope this all helps make your decision making process a little smoother. The answer should be simple: go. I have said it before and I will say it forever, you will be remembered in the same manner that you remember. Should my name ever appear on that wall, I would want my friends to support my family. As such, I will do my best to feed that machine. You should be doing the same. You owe it to our lost. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your family. You owe it to our profession. See you there.