On a windy, grey afternoon in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, the names of four Philadelphia Police Officers were engraved on the marble walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Sergeants Stephen Liczbinski and Patrick McDonald were shot and killed by armed criminals while Sgt. Timothy Simpson and Officer Isabel Nazario died in vehicle crashes. "They join 247 other members of the Philadelphia Police Department who made the ultimate sacrifice throughout history as the 3rd highest total of any municipal police agency in the United States" said Craig W. Floyd, Chairman and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The Philadelphia Police Department had the highest fatality figure in the United States in 2008.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey has been in Philadelphia for about 15 months during which time these fatalities took place. He said, "2008 was not a good year for us at the Philadelphia Police Department by any stretch of the imagination."
Nearly 45 Philadelphia police officers and commanders came down to the nation's capital for the ceremony. They stood in a row behind family members watching the names being engraved on the wall.
Kevin Hodges, the 4th commander of the 24th police district was in command when Sergeant Simpson was killed. He said "Unfortunately for these families in a 7 year period, we hadn't lost any officers. Unfortunately in the last 24 months we have lost 7 officers"
While 2008 was a bad year for the Philadelphia Police Department, according to research done by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 2008 actually witnessed a sharp drop in overall gun-related deaths in the police. However for the 11th straight year, more officers died in traffic-related incidents.
Officer Isabel Nazario was killed instantly when a 16-year-old broadsided her police car on the passenger side. Her partner was critically injured. Her family wept as they etched her name on a piece of paper at the Memorial where more than 200 female police officers are remembered. Last year the number of female police officer deaths doubled from 6 in 2007 to 13 in 2008. It is one of the highest fatality figures amongst female officers in years.
The Philadelphia police officers arrived in buses and headed back the same afternoon after the ceremony. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial will continue to engrave the names of 254 others from around the country who died in previous years. All these names will be formally dedicated on the Memorial during the 21st Annual Candlelight Vigil on the evening of May 13th.
Meanwhile, the larger effort of recognizing the work done by policemen over the years is taking shape in the form of a permanent museum, right next to the memorial. It is likely to open in 2013.
This article and a slideshow are available on the WPVI-TV website.