As the U.S. marks National Police Week, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, has issued a statement honoring law enforcement officers, both living and dead.
Each year the nation observes National Peace Officers Memorial Day May 15, followed by a week of related events in Washington, including several memorial services for deceased officers. This year’s commemorations are expected to draw some 25,000 to 40,000.
“As we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we also express our gratitude to all members of law enforcement who put their lives on the line each day, as well as to their spouses, children and loved ones who support them and pray for their safety,” Bishop Burbidge said in a May 15 statement.
Police officers “work to preserve the law and order upon which our nation is built, often at the expense of their own personal safety,” he said.
Policing “requires its members to exhibit courage, patience, fortitude, generosity of spirit and, most especially, wisdom in carrying out their duties,” Bishop Burbidge said.
Those tasks, particularly in recent years, have been made more difficult by “violence and unrest, often caused or induced by drugs, mental illness or simply a disregard for the dignity of human life and morality,” he said.
Calls to defund police departments, difficulties with developing effective police reforms and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a toll on U.S. police officers, whose ranks have declined.
Although hirings have rebounded, “agencies are losing officers faster than they can hire new ones” due to retirement rates, with “total sworn staffing (dropping) nearly 5 percent over the past three years,” according to an April 1 release from the Police Executive Research Forum.
In 2022, an estimated 160 U.S. law enforcement officers committed suicide, according to the nonprofit advocacy and awareness organization Blue H.E.L.P. Like all first responders, police are at increased risk for substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Bishop Burbidge called for prayer for police officers, saying “we are blessed by those who undertake this work and are forever grateful for their service.”
“For those who gave their lives, we ask God, in his mercy, to draw them to himself in eternal life,” he said. “For those living members of the law enforcement community, we ask (patron) St. Michael the Archangel to defend and protect them. May Our Lord, through the intercession of St. Joseph the protector and Mary our mother, bless those who walk the blue line for our sake, and their families, now and forever.”