History of National Police Week

History of National Police Week

Annual Candlelight Vigil

By a joint resolution on October 1, 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed Public Law 87-726 that declared May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls as National Police Week, the annual tribute to law enforcement service and sacrifice.

More than 30 years later, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 amended the law, and Public Law 103-322 was signed by President Bill Clinton, directing that the U.S. flag be displayed at half-staff on all government buildings on May 15 each year.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a principal organizer of National Police Week, along with Concerns of Police Survivors, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary. The Memorial is a focal point of the National Police Week observance and hosts formal ceremonies, as well as impromptu, personal tributes to America’s fallen law enforcement officers.

National Police Week 2012 officially took place Sunday, May 13 through Saturday, May 19.
One of the signature events is the annual Candlelight Vigil, held on the evening of May 13 each year. At this ceremony, approximately 20,000 people from all across the country, as well as international visitors, congregate together at the Memorial to honor the fallen officers.

Another National Police Week highlight is the National Peace Officers Memorial Day Service, hosted by the Fraternal Order of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary and held on May 15 every year at the U.S. Capitol.

This year, 362 names of officers who died in the line of duty were inscribed on the Memorial, bringing the total names engraved to 19,660.  The newly etched names include 163 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who died in 2011. These names, along with the names of 199 recently discovered fallen officers who died in past years, were officially dedicated on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial at the 24th annual Candlelight Vigil, a truly spectacular and powerful event.


Leaving mementos and personal tributes near an officer’s name has become a rich tradition at the Memorial. Each year, thousands of items are displayed—everything from colorful wreaths to photos and notes to an unhinged door from an officer’s patrol vehicle, signed by his or her loved ones. Once Police Week comes to a close, Museum staff collects and saves some of these mementos—to be included in the National Law Enforcement Museum’s collection. Due to inclement weather conditions and both the volume and perishable nature of items left at the wall, not every memento can be kept.  A selection of these special “objects of tribute” will be exhibited in the Museum’s Hall of Remembrance.


901 E Street, NW, Suite 100 | Washington, DC 20004-2025 | phone 202.737.3400 | fax 202.737.3405
www.LawEnforcementMuseum.org | museum@nleomf.org