National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Featuring articles from Executive Director Craig Floyd
with National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Finding our heros

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Law enforcement officers all over the world stand between us and the pervasive violence of the modern world. Few people in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region can forget those awful weeks in October: ten people dead and three wounded by unknown snipers. Following on the heels of the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks and ensuing anthrax attacks, it seemed more than our besieged city could bear. The most mundane activities - taking our children to school, getting gas, waiting for the bus - took on a sinister and frightening cast. We were a city of people holding our breath. We kept anxious count of our loved ones. We ran to work and school. We were afraid to exhale before we reached the comfort of locked doors and shuttered windows. We watched for white vans and began to feel as though we could not be safe anywhere. We looked to law enforcement officers for deliverance.

Virginia State Trooper C. Mark Cosslett was not the most visible figure in the sniper investigation, but as parents throughout the region wondered if it was safe to send their children to school, Trooper Cosslett provided reassurance and comfort. He volunteered his time and stood stalwart at Bush Hill Presbyterian Day School, his son's preschool, handing out Junior Officer badges to the children and providing a visible sign of security to everyone. Trooper Cosslett pacified edgy parents and did his utmost to ensure the children's safety. After the unthinkable attack on a schoolboy, Trooper Cosslett's presence was a beacon of hope for many as a signal of the vigilance of local law enforcement officers.

Trooper C. Mark Cosslett

On the afternoon of October 23, 2002, Trooper Cosslett had been keeping watch at the school when he heard a report of a shooting in Newington, Virginia. Although it was his day off, he raced towards the scene on his motorcycle. Traveling down I-95, Trooper Cosslett could only have thought that the sniper had struck again. He was riding on the shoulder of the road to avoid the rush hour traffic when a tow truck swerved in front of him. Trooper Cosslett collided with the truck and died at the scene. He was 40 years old.

Later that night, police captured Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Mohammed, the accused snipers. Reports of Trooper Cosslett's death were lost in the ensuing media frenzy. Caught up in the jubilation we all felt in venturing outside unafraid, we overlooked his tragic death.

Despite the fact that a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty every 53 hours, thousands of brave men and women continue to vow to serve and protect every year. Indeed, officer fatalities have decreased significantly in recent years: 30 years ago, 1 in 1,500 officers died in the line of duty. Today, that number has declined to 1 in 6,000. Better equipment and better training techniques are an integral part of this decline. Protective body armor, now in widespread use amongst law enforcement agencies, has saved nearly 3,000 lives since its introduction. Sophisticated training programs teach officers how to defuse and survive potentially lethal situations. Technology such as the Advanced Taser allows officers to use non-lethal force to control suspects, reducing injuries to both officers and suspects. Information sharing technology allows law enforcement agencies an unprecedented amount of cooperation. Apprehending criminals quickly helps reduce violent incidents and makes our law enforcement officers safer every day. And yet, 148 law enforcement officers, including Trooper Cosslett, died in the line of duty in 2002. We must continue the struggle to make our law enforcement officers safer.

In the days after September 11th, our nation stood in shocked disbelief as hundreds of first responders ran to help the victims of the terrorist attacks in Pennsylvania, Washington, and New York. Hundreds became victims themselves when the Twin Towers collapsed. The sacrifices that those brave men and women made are forever seared into our consciousness. Trooper Mark Cosslett made his stand in front of a preschool so that he could shelter the children inside from harm. When I picture him racing on his motorcycle to answer the call of "shots fired," I am reminded of the Port Authority officers who ran without thought or hesitation into the World Trade Center. I am reminded that there are men and women in every precinct in every town in this country who would do the same when called upon. I am reminded that we must do more to make the world safer for those who protect us.

Mark Cosslett is mourned by his wife, two young children, and all of us who found in him our hero.

About the author

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund was established in 1984 to generate increased public support for the law enforcement profession by permanently recording and appropriately commemorating the service and sacrifice of all federal, state and local law enforcement officers.
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