Monday, January 11, 2016

Officer Down Memorial Page 20th Anniversary

The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP) marks its 20th anniversary in 2016.  In the last two decades, ODMP has grown from a small site honoring the line of duty deaths of a few fallen officers to the largest law enforcement memorial in the country, paying tribute to the more than 22,000 fallen heroes who have died in the line of duty in US history.

The Officer Down Memorial Page was founded in 1996 by Chris Cosgriff, then a freshman at James Madison University, after he read a Washington Post article about a murderer convicted of slaying two officers from Prince George's County, Maryland who was released after serving only 16 years in prison. Shocked and dismayed that a violent criminal would be released so quickly after committing such a heinous crime, Cosgriff was compelled to find a way to honor those and other fallen officers and to bring attention to the dangers faced by law enforcement every day.

In it's infancy, ODMP honored only law enforcement officers who had been killed or wounded in 1996, but quickly expanded to include officers killed in the line of duty dating back to 1990.  The ODMP was then granted access to the National Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) files, and was able to expand the number of honorees on the page.

"In 1996 we had only a list of names, agencies, and end of watch (EOW) for approximately 12,000 - 15,000 fallen officers," says Cosgriff.  "The additional details were obtained through years of persistent research by volunteers and submissions by site visitors."

Knowing that there were officers in US history whose names were forgotten by time but whose sacrifices deserved recognition nonetheless, ODMP researchers have worked, mostly as volunteers, over the last twenty years to uncover the stories of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty but were never recognized for their sacrifice. 

"Over the years we've had countless dedicated researchers who have come and gone, but there has always been a core group who have persisted for almost that entire time, usually concentrating on specific geographic areas (for example, a single state or metro region), or specific agencies," Cosgriff explains.

Currently there are just over 22,000 names honored on the Officer Down Memorial Page.  Of those, over one thousand names -- 1,442 to be exact -- were discovered, and subsequently honored, through the tireless dedication of the research team and the online submissions of supporters across the country.  Without those efforts, the names of each of those fallen heroes and the stories associated with them would have been lost to time.

The beauty of the Officer Down Memorial Page is its universal reach and global accessibility.  Unlike most memorials, which are geographically fixed, the Officer Down Memorial Page is accessible to a wider audience.  Because it is available online, anyone, anywhere can read the memorials, learn the stories behind the names, and pay tribute to the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.  

Last August, the 92-year old granddaughter of fallen hero Detective Samuel S. Drummy (EOW 2/15/1908), accessed a computer for the first time in her life.  With assistance from a law enforcement officer with the Tuscon Police Department (AZ), she was able to find her grandfather's memorial on the Officer Down Memorial Page and see his picture for the first time since she was 14-years old.  It is stories like these, kept alive in the Reflections on each Memorial, that drive the ODMP mission.

Cosgriff sums up his thoughts on reaching the twenty year mark of the Officer Down Memorial Page: "When I created ODMP I could not have possibly imagined it would become one of the most visited law enforcement websites in the world. I was an 18-year-old college kid who was simply trying to honor fallen officers because, even back then, I felt that the media tended to focus on negative stories related to law enforcement officers. It has been an honor to run this organization for so long. ODMP literally invented the concept of online memorials for fallen officers and lead the way in ensuring every officer's death, no matter how or where it occurred, was broadcast nationally so that fellow officers nationwide could honor their sacrifice."

It is the hope of all those involved with the ODMP that each name added to the site will be the last.  Until, and after, that day comes, the Officer Down Memorial Page is committed to honoring those souls who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of justice.