During National Police Week, it’s a time-honored tradition for survivors, supporters and colleagues from across the country to visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to pay their respects to the officers who have died in the line of duty. So when it was first reported two years ago by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) that the memorial was in danger of running out of space by 2029, many in the law enforcement community were concerned about the fate of the landmark.
The memorial was dedicated in October 1991 with the names of 12,657 officers who died in the line of duty through the end of 1990. According to the National Capital Planning Commission, it was originally designed for enough space to add names annually through 2100, assuming an average of 153 deaths per year. However, the actual average has far surpassed that number, with an influx of officers dying each year from shootings, traffic collisions or medical conditions incurred on the job, such as COVID-19 and rare cancers contracted from helping with rescue and recovery operations in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Additionally, newly discovered names of those who died in previous years are immortalized on the walls of the memorial annually. In recent years, it became evident that the number of names was quickly outpacing the size of the memorial.
In 2020, NLEOMF embarked on an expansion project to ensure the future fallen would have a place on the wall by providing room for approximately 9,000 new names. This year, the project — which added 15 inches to the height of the current Walls of Remembrance — was completed. The existing walls were able to accommodate the new names being added to the wall during this year’s ceremonies. However, the expansion established enough room that it should be able to meet the needs of the law enforcement community for another 35 to 37 years, NLEOMF reports.