Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy 15th Birthday ODMP!

A few things happened in late '95 and early '96 that culminated in the creation of the ODMP in January of 1996. I was a freshman at James Madison University, biding my time until I turned 21 so I could return home to Fairfax City, Virginia, and fulfill my dream of becoming a police officer there. I had been an Explorer for the previous four years. My Explorer advisors - then-Sergeant Scott Dulaney and the late Officer Bill Thomas - urged me to go to college and get a job that paid more. I begrudgingly followed their advice and can't thank them enough for it because it allowed me to create the ODMP.

Officer Lauretha Vaird
While I was at home for the Christmas break that year I heard about the release of Terrence Johnson, a man who murdered two Prince George's County, Maryland, police officers in cold blood in 1978. The media's portrayal and glorification of this man sickened me to the core. Just a few days later, on January 2, 1996, Police Officer Lauretha Vaird became the the nation's first line of duty death of the year when she was gunned down while responding to a bank robbery in Philadelphia. In true media fashion, the Washington, DC, news gave her murder hardly a mention.

The Internet was in its infancy and I didn't know how to do much, but I sat down at a computer with thoughts of injustice swirling in my mind. How could the media glorify a double cop killer while barely even mentioning the life and death of a true heroine who was taken from us too early? That night I started typing out the first few lines of code that became the ODMP. A few days later four officers who had already been slain in the line of duty were already added to the site.

Patrolman Bryant Peney
One of these officers was Patrolman Bryant Peney, who was shot and killed on January 6, 1996. Within days of publishing Patrolman Peney's name his twin brother (who served on the same department) found the meager website and emailed me, thanking me for remembering his brother.

You see, up until receiving that email from Todd Peney this was just a website. I had never known any officers who had been killed in the line of duty and I didn't understand the impact the simple act of posting a name on a website would have on a fallen officer's friends and family. On that day the little website I created in my freshman-year dorm room became a bona fide memorial.

Fast forward to today. Between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2010, the ODMP received 2.8 million visitors, making it one of the most visited law enforcement websites ever!

After 15 years of running the ODMP as an all-volunteer organization, I am honored to announce that the organization received a federal grant that has allowed us to hire staff and continue our work in honoring America's fallen heroes. We now have two full time employees and have moved into new office space in Fairfax, Virginia, as we embark on a mission for a new and improved ODMP in 2011.

However, we still need your support. I'm personally asking all regular visitors of the ODMP to recognize our 15 years of service by making a $15 donation today so that we can ensure we are always able to continue providing memorials and details on line of duty deaths as they happen.

Be safe and God bless!

Chris Cosgriff
Executive Director

PS- For those of you in the DC-metro area please feel free to visit the ODMP office during normal business hours. We're located at 3950 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 12, Fairfax, VA, 22030.