It’s a sad and unfortunate tally, but the 204 people it represents were celebrated last week, when the Los Angeles Police Department held its annual memorial ceremony for officers killed in the line of duty.
The list begins with policeman Clyde A. May (1907) and ends with police officer Joshua James Cullins (2010). Scattered in between are several officers from the local Wilshire, Olympic and Hollywood divisions.
With more than one hundred officers and many relatives of the fallen officers inside the dimly-lit Ronald F. Deaton Auditorium in downtown L.A. on Thursday, department officials honored the lives of the deceased and lamented their passing.
“It is about celebrating lives — incredible lives that had chosen an awesome career in law enforcement,” Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur said, adding that those officers had made the greatest sacrifice. “We feel blessed today to say we have not lost one body, one soul in the last 12 months.”
She credited that stretch to the memorialized officers, whose deadly encounters provided valuable lessons that continue to help keep their successors alive today.
“Those losses were important for our future,” MacArthur said.
A wreath with 204 carnations sat in the middle of the auditorium. An honor guard stood nearby throughout the service, with guard changes occurring at regular intervals. LAPD chaplains gave the invocation and benediction.
“This ceremony is about much more than honoring our dead,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. “It’s about honoring those sitting up there who are willing to give their lives for others.”
He said 53 officers have been killed in the line of duty since he joined the law enforcement field in 1977. Two officers — Cullins and police officer Robert James “RJ” Cottle — have been killed on duty since November 2009, when he became the head of the department.
“Everyone one of them is inscribed in my heart,” Beck said, showing emotion. “I remember every one of those incidents.”
He characterized officers as ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Looking toward the crowd of officers in the back of the auditorium, Beck expressed his gratitude for their service and pursuit of justice.
“Thank you for your sacrifice,” he said. “Thank you for your dedication to the LAPD. God bless you all.”
Los Angeles Police Museum executive director Glynn Martin, a retired LAPD sergeant, honored the lives of two officers who were killed in the line of duty 25 years ago. One, police officer James H. Pagliotti, was his partner and roommate.
Pagliotti had recently transferred from Hollywood Vice to Metro Division, and was working a plain-clothes assignment in search of a burglary suspect. Unrelated to his assignment, he encountered two suspected drug dealers and gang members who were armed and posing a potential threat. A gunfight ensued.
Pagliotti became the first Metro officer killed since 1946, and was only the second in its history. Since then, four Metro Division officers have died in the line of duty. The alleged gang members were shot, captured and charged with Pagliotti’s death. One, Louis Belvin Jr., remains incarcerated, and his parole was denied in 2005 and 2010.
Randol L. Marshall was working in the San Fernando Valley and died as a result of a motorcycle crash on June 2, 1987. He is one of 34 officers to die as a result of a motorcycle accident, which is the second most common means of death for LAPD officers. A taxi had cut him off. He left behind a wife and two daughters.
When Marshall died, it had been 16 months since an officer had died in the line of duty. However, that same month, Pagliotti became one of 99 on-duty officers to die via gunshot.
Though the two had never met, Marshall and Pagliotti are linked on the LAPD’s Memorial Wall, and their relatives have become familiar with one another over the years, Martin said.
“We thank them for their sacrifice,” he said. “We hope those who go forth today will remember them and the other 202 officers felled during the service of the LAPD.”
A video presentation followed the speakers. It displayed the names and photos, if available, of every officer killed in the line of duty since 1907. Afterwards, the audience was dismissed with exception of the families, who were asked to stay briefly.
The sound of bagpipes echoed as the crowd made its way to the memorial, where the wreath was displayed. Four helicopters with the Air Support Division did a fly-over. Taps was performed, and a 21-rifle volley was fired. Family members placed roses on the nameplates of their loved ones.
“It helps build closure,” said Carol Carreon, president of the LAPD Family Support Group, which offers peer counseling, workshops and more to the widows of police officers. “It’s just very, very meaningful.”
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