Honoring city's protectors

Tribute: City leaders and families dedicate a long-awaited monument to slain police officers.

November 02, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

When 6-year-old Rachel Platt helped unveil a statue yesterday afternoon during the dedication of a memorial to Baltimore's fallen police officers, she felt the presence of her father, whose name is inscribed with 112 others on marble slabs only a few feet away.

"He was with me when I pulled it down," Rachel said, referring to the moment when she yanked off the cloth covering the statue of a young girl comforting a grieving officer. "He was a special police."

Rachel, whose father, John D. Platt, was killed in 2000, was one of the models for the statue. She was among dozens of children, widows and other family members of city officers killed in the line of duty who attended a dedication ceremony for the city police union's memorial, located across from the Police Department's downtown headquarters.

The 90-minute tribute was filled with tears and smiles as a bagpiper played mournful tunes, seven officers fired a rifle salute and one of the agency's helicopters flew overhead.

City leaders, the Police Department's top commanders and former police commissioners all spoke about the painful loss of their friends in uniform and the significance of their deaths.

"This monument conjures up vivid memories and strong emotions in all of us," said Commissioner Kevin P. Clark. "Each of these heroes has made our past and present clearer."

Clark sat on the stage next to one of his predecessors, State Police Superintendent Col. Edward T. Norris, who lost seven officers during his three-year tenure as city police commissioner.

"Each time was like losing a family member," Norris told the crowd of several hundred people.

Since 1857, 113 city officers have been killed, and city union officials and family members of slain officers had been trying to build a memorial for the last five years.

Led by Angela Halcomb - president of the memorial fund and widow of Officer Jimmy D. Halcomb, who died in 1976 - they lobbied leaders and raised money to build the tribute.

Yesterday's ceremony was the culmination of their efforts to construct the $500,000 monument, which consists of the marble blocks and three sculptures, including one of an officer holding a folded U.S. flag and another of an officer saluting across President Street toward headquarters.

"We're finally able to honor their sacrifice in a way that the entire city can see," said Gary McLhinney, chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police and a former president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, who was a driving force behind the monument.

"We recognize their sacrifice," McLhinney added. "It's important that the citizens of this city recognize the sacrifice as well. ... It really shows the depth of grief we experience when we lose a family member in law enforcement."

Karen Adolfo-Vida, 39, lost her first husband, Vincent J. Adolfo, in 1985 and had tears in her eyes at the end of yesterday's dedication.

"This is a place where we can come and see their deeds will never be forgotten," she said. "We waited a long time for this to happen. It brings up all those feelings. I can't really put it into words. It brings out all that I feel in my heart."

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