The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., is an important landmark that honors the memory of the many brave men and women who have died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history. Unfortunately, it’s also running out of space decades earlier than anticipated.
The memorial was introduced in October 1991 and included the names of 12,561 officers who had died through the end of 1990, according to a project synopsis prepared for the National Capital Planning Commission. The original design included enough blank space to add new names each year, and the plan was for the space to be enough to last through the year 2100 — assuming an average of 153 officer deaths per year.
Sadly, however, the rate of officer deaths has more than doubled since then — there are now an average of 337 names added per year. That is primarily due to the tragic events of 9/11, both from the day of the terrorist attacks and from the fallout afterward as many first responders contracted illnesses that eventually proved fatal. There have also been names discovered of officers who died before 1960, when the FBI began tracking police officer deaths.
With this sharp rise in yearly additions, the memorial now includes the names of 21,183 officers. At this pace, if the memorial is not modified, it will run out of space by 2029 — more than 70 years sooner than originally expected.
With this in mind, a new expansion project has been proposed. It would add 15 inches to the top of the existing Walls of Remembrance, which should provide space for approximately 9,000 more names that can be added until roughly 2057.
The building of the memorial was commissioned by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which also oversees the National Law Enforcement Museum. The memorial fund will also be in charge of any renovations, and a memorial spokesperson told the Washington Business Journal that the fund has already secured money to build an expansion, raising more than $3 million during National Police Week in 2019.
The proposed expansion project would take approximately 36 months to complete, and it has already been approved by the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. Now it only needs to be approved by the National Capital Planning Commission before work can begin.