The law enforcement profession holds an element of risk, perhaps greater than any other professional career. Its 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 , under the direction of now Chief of Staff Gino Bennett, 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 donated to the project by the Hamilton County Commissioners. The park’s function would be to pay tribute 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 1992, Chief Deputy Hammond and the memorial staff created the Law Enforcement Memorial Committee challenged with raising the funding 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 refl ection 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 well-known 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 impressive unveiling of the monument took place. The fiveand-one-half ton bronze cube structure (signifying strength and beauty) was set in place at the park. The memorial has a carved niche on each of its four sides. Inside three of the niches are life-size realistic figures 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 Archangel, 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 resulting loss to our community as a whole.
The sculpture serves as an inspirational memorial as well as a timeless allegory of good versus evil. It is intended to teach us that there is a cost our civilization must pay to fight crime and corruption. It serves as a statement that we, as a culture, are all connected, and when we lose just one member, we all suff er 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 ceremony are many officers and leadership from around the county as well as survivors, elected officials, and other dignitaries.