Pittsfield Police Remembers Fallen Officers

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The flag outside of the Police Department was raised to half staff to honor the five law enforcement officers who were killed in the city of Pittsfield.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Every 53 hours, a law enforcement officer in America is killed.

Since 1791, more than 20,000 officers have been killed in the line of duty; five of them in the city of Pittsfield.

Local law enforcement agencies took an hour out of their day on Monday to remember those who have died protecting communities.

"These are the men and women who purposely turn toward the sounds of chaos, toward the sounds of violence and grab their equipment and head into the fight when most normal people turn and run away," said Police Chief Michael Wynn during Monday's Police Week ceremony.

In 1962, President Kennedy declared May 15 as National Police Officer Memorial Day. For the last several years, during that week, the Pittsfield Police have organized a memorial ceremony.

That ceremony not only remembers the 20,000 who have died but specifically the five who died while working in Pittsfield, including the first Secret Service agent to be killed on duty: Operative William Craig in 1902, when a trolley car rammed into a carriage carrying President Roosevelt. Also remembered: Capt. Michael Leonard, 1898; Jailer James Fuller, 1901; Officer Leo Sullivan, 1956, and Officer Timothy J. Shepard, 1988.

Wynn said the ceremony is a reminder of the "risks and chances" the officer take every day. Last year, 105 officers were killed in the United State while on the job and 40 have died so far this year.

"The fight we fight and the monsters we face continue to change. We've got better equipment. We've got better training. We've got better educated officers. And yet, we still go out," Wynn said. 

Lt. Katherine O'Brien, Dan Johnson of U.S. Rep Richard Neal's officer, Sheriff Thomas Bowler and Mayor Daniel Bianchi during the ceremony.

"Those 40 officers that were buried this year were struck by cars when rendering aid on the side of the road. Or had their vehicles struck while they were taking enforcement action. They've suffered heart-related maladies when they were trying to render aid. And they've been violently assaulted. They've been ambushed and no amount of equipment and no amount of training is going to allow us to keep the walls bare as long as we have to fight that fight."

Wynn continued, "ultimately, at the end of the day, it comes down to the individual police officer alone, often in the dark, fighting the fight that no one else wants to fight."

Mayor Daniel Bianchi said he remembers working in the city's finance department when the news of Shepard's death spread. Shepard, 25, had died of heat stroke at a state training center; his death, and the injuries sustained by his classmates, resulted in sweeping changes in the way the state trains its police forces.

"I think it is fitting that we always remember those who serve," Bianchi said.

The mayor also read a proclamation dedicating this week as "Police Week in the City of Pittsfield."

Monday's ceremony featured the Pittsfield Police Department Honor Guard raising a flag half-staff outside of the station; an invocation by the Rev. Diana Salnitis; poems from Lt. Katherine O'Brien and PPD Officers Wives Group member Tanya Condron Mullin; roll call and echo of the officers killed in the city; the playing of taps and the playing of "Amazing Grace."

Those in attendance included members of the City Council, officers from multiple agencies, Sheriff Thomas Bowler and Dan Johnson from U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's office.

Tags: memorial,   Pittsfield Police,   remembrance,   

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