I was asked to travel to Washington, D.C., to represent the LVPPA along with Steve Grammas and Tom Reid. This was a very humbling and emotional journey for me. I have never been to Washington, D.C., so obviously I began thinking about all the monuments and sights I would like to try to squeeze in and see. I’m a planner and like to have a schedule for everything, and when I started budgeting my time, well, I quickly found out that there just wasn’t a heck of a lot of it available. Just the sheer magnitude of Police Week is very overwhelming, with all the events taking place.
On top of the actual events of the week, for months, we had been getting everything set up and squared away for the NAPO Top Cops Awards. This was a rather hectic and challenging task, coordinating with NAPO and our 10 Top Cops finalists and their families, making sure all the travel plans got handled. We were also able to accommodate Nicole Beck, Andrea Soldo and Robert Soldo and get them to the Top Cops Awards. LVMPD was well represented at the Top Cops Awards, with 70 seats from the PMSA, PPA and nominees.
To start the ceremony, NAPO President Mick McHale spoke for several minutes and then introduced the vice president of the United States. I was extremely skeptical about what I was going to hear from the vice president. Being a police officer, a Marine and an American citizen, I can say publicly that I haven’t been impressed with our current administration’s support, or lack thereof, for law enforcement. However, the vice president’s speech was very moving and a great speech to give to a room full of police officers.
Representing LVMPD at the Top Cops Awards were Sheriff Lombardo, Assistant Sheriff Fasulo and his wife, Detective Cindy Fasulo. The Top Cops nominees were Sergeant McKenzie, Sergeant O’Brien, and Officers Beal, Bethard, Brosnahan, Corbin, Fryman, Gross, Nicol and Stinnett, who attended along with their families. During the ceremony, when the presenter spoke about the tragic events of June 8, 2014, the entire room full of police officers from around the country sat silent, listening to the tragic radio traffic and watching the video surveillance from the Walmart. The presenter then paused and asked the audience to recognize Andrea Soldo, Robert Soldo and Nicole Beck. I can’t even begin to tell you how powerful that moment was. Instantly the entire room was standing and clapping, and tears were flowing. Words can’t explain it. The presenter went on to read the nomination and detail the heroic actions of not just the 10 nominees, but the entire agency. The nominees were then called onto the stage to receive the Top Cops Award to a standing ovation.
Getting off the subway at the Judiciary Square Station, I had no idea what to expect of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, other than the pictures I have seen. As soon as you walk up the stairs from the subway, you are literally at the memorial. Words can’t describe this. You are instantly surrounded by officers everywhere, off duty and wearing shrouded badges. You see family members walking around wearing shirts for fallen loved ones. Flowers and wreaths are spread out everywhere. Then, as if this isn’t enough, as you continue to scan, you see the wall with the names of all the fallen. Again, it is just beyond words, the sights and the beauty of the memorial. And even in today’s climate, as officers are violently being killed and the vocal minority is protesting and rioting, there was peace and tranquility there. It was sacred ground.
‘For years, the PPA and PMSA have been proud sponsors of the Police Unity Tour Team Vegas. On a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, we watched thousands of officers from around the country arrive at the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial after a journey of more than 300 miles. As the Unity Tour rode into the memorial, they were greeted by bagpipers, honor guards, and cheering officers and family members. They rode into a sea of blue supporters. I am very proud of Team Vegas and the work they did, and I thank them for their dedication.
The candle-lighting vigil was an amazing display of unity, love and support for our law enforcement community, and a simple gesture to those who have fallen that they aren’t forgotten and their families aren’t alone. We gathered on a grassy berm to the rear of the reflecting pond with a large contingency of LVMPD officers, honor guard and members from NEAC. As the sun set, a slight wind picked up. While the bagpipes played and a guest speaker spoke, the memorial grew larger and larger with officers and family members. And once darkness had fallen, the torch was passed to light the candles. As far as you could see was a sea of lit candles flickering in the wind with uniformed officers and family everywhere, shoulder to shoulder. It was such an amazing sight and something that will never be forgotten. All the names of the fallen officers from 2014 were read off, state by state.
During Police Week, we took pictures and posted them to the PPA’s Facebook page. Unfortunately, 2015 is shaping up to be a very violent year for law enforcement. Despite the war on cops, riots, looting and utter disregard for humanity, I can tell you that during the week in Washington, D.C., I did not hear one officer say that they go to work with the intention of violating someone’s rights or being involved in a shooting that day. We go to work because we care. We have a deep inner drive to serve our families and community. There’s a great social media campaign trying to combat the negative outcries and violence toward police: #bluelivesmatter. Our lives matter, we are our community and the majority of our community understands that. We make a positive difference in our community daily. Keep doing that; keep doing the right things. Be smart, be safe, watch out for your partners and continue serving — despite the negativity, you matter!