The law enforcement profession holds an element of risk perhaps greater than any other professional career. It’s perils are always present, and the potential for encountering tragedy is extraordinary. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a Presidential Proclamation that set aside May 15 as National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day and the week of May 15 as National Police Week.
In 1988, plans for a fitting law enforcement memorial to honor our local officers killed in the line of duty began to take shape, as then Chief Deputy Jim Hammond and his memorial staff began working toward that goal.
In 1989, the centrally located memorial site in the 600 block of Market Street next to the Hamilton County-Chattanooga Courts Building was officially designated by the County Commissioners to become a park area in tribute and support to local law enforcement and specifically to give prominent recognition to those officers killed in the line of duty.
In 1992, Chief Deputy Hammond and his memorial staff created the Law Enforcement Memorial Committee challenged with raising the money for the project. Memorial services attended by law enforcement personnel throughout the area were held at the site in 1993 and 1994. Within four years the “pocket park” with its benches to provide an inspirational place of reflection and relaxation was created, and artists were contacted to create a monument to honor the fallen officers.
In 1998, the Chattanooga Area Law Enforcement Commission (CALECO) chose local artist Cessna Decosimo to create a memorial at the site. Finally, in 2002 with all funds for this project raised from private resources, artist Decosimo began his creation.
In May 2003, the memorable unveiling of the monument took place. The five-and-one-half ton bronze cube structure (signifying strength and beauty) was set in place at the park. The monument has a carved niche on each side. Inside three of the niches are life-size realistic figures also made of bronze.
The niche facing south has a grieving woman, on the opposite side facing north is a grieving man, and in the center niche facing west on Market Street is a figure of St. Michael, the patron saint of police. On the opposite side of the cube facing the existing marble wall is the fourth niche which remains empty, signifying the loss of slain officers and the consequent loss to our community as a whole.
The sculpture serves as an inspirational memorial as well as a timeless allegory of good versus evil. The sculpture is intended to teach us that there is a cost our civilization must pay to fight evil. It serves as a statement that we, as a culture, are all connected, and when we lose just one member, we all suffer the loss together.
A memorial service is held at the park each year in mid-May, and the public is invited to attend. Attending the service are many officers and leadership from around the county as well as survivors, elected officials and other dignitaries.
Our Survivor Project seeks to identify and locate survivors of our fallen officers. We would like to unite them with other survivors’ families and invite them to have a prominent place in the yearly ceremony by being escorted by one of our Memorial Service Escort Officers. If you are a surviving family member of a fallen officer from this area, please contact the sheriff’s office.