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WASHINGTON, DC — With U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder leading the solemn ritual, the names of 387 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty were read aloud and formally dedicated on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, Wednesday night during the 21st annual Candlelight Vigil for fallen officers.
Included were 133 officers who died in 2008, plus 254 officers who were killed in previous years but whose stories had not been previously known or recognized.
"As we dedicate these 387 names to the walls of this Memorial we reflect on the brave men and women who gave their lives to protect our safety and to defend our freedoms," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. "Tonight we hold a vigil, but every day we must be vigilant. So let us bind ourselves together with a new bond of service: to make our country brighter, safer and more hopeful, and in so doing, let us honor the memory of our fallen heroes every day."
Attorney General Holder delivered the keynote address at the vigil. Then, along with Jennifer Thacker, national president of Concerns of Police Survivors, he led the lighting of thousands of candles held high in honor of all of America's fallen law enforcement officers.
"These 387 heroes can now take their rightful place alongside so many other heroes who have one thing in common: they chose to put the safety and protection of others above their own," said Craig W. Floyd, chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). "America is truly blessed to have such a breed of citizen protectors among us, and these men and women will always be honored here at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial."
The Memorial in Judiciary Square now contains the names of 18,661 law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and federal law enforcement and military police agencies.
After increasing sharply in 2007, officer fatalities declined by 27 percent in 2008. The 133 officers killed in the line of duty last year was the lowest annual total since 1960, when there were 127 officer deaths.
The number of officers killed by gunfire declined even more dramatically last year. The 39 officers shot and killed in 2008 represented a reduction of 43 percent from 2007 and was the lowest annual figure since 1956.
For the 11th year in a row, more officers died in traffic-related incidents in 2008 than from gunfire or any other single cause of death. The 71 traffic deaths last year included 44 officers who died in automobile accidents, nine in motorcycle accidents and 18 who were stuck and killed by other vehicles while outside their police vehicles.
Thirty-five states, along with Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, experienced officer fatalities during 2008. Texas had the most officer deaths, with 14, followed by California (13), Florida (8), and Georgia and Pennsylvania (7 each). Four of the Pennsylvania deaths took place in Philadelphia, whose police department lost more officers than any other agency last year. Six federal law enforcement officers also died in the line of duty in 2008.
Dedicated in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial commemorates the service and sacrifice of America's law enforcement officers. Each May 13, as part of National Police Week, the newly engraved names of officers killed in the line of duty are formally dedicated on the National Memorial during the Candlelight Vigil. An estimated 20,000 people attend the ceremony each year, including surviving family members, friends, law enforcement officers and others.