Memorial dedicated to five slain officers

Their families offered idea for tribute in city's Northeast District

October 31, 2004|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

A memorial dedication yesterday for fallen Baltimore police officers in the Northeast District brought sadness, some smiles and satisfaction to two family members who labored three years to honor their loved ones.

More than 200 people attended the event at Heinz Park, including Mayor Martin O'Malley and Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark. Many of those attending came from the surrounding community, and many who witnessed the dedication expressed admiration for the finished product.

"I've dreamed about this day," said Dawn McCarthy, sister of Officer Kevin J. McCarthy, who was killed by a drunken driver on Oct. 14, 2000. Sgt. John D. Platt also died in that incident. Platt's widow, Laurie Platt, and Dawn McCarthy led the drive to erect the monument.

The officers were among five who were honored. Their names and the dates of their deaths were etched into slender slabs of black granite that were separated by shorter gray granite blocks. Police badges for each officer were encased in a clear synthetic material and inserted into the top of each marker.

The structure forms a semicircle that faces the intersection of Harford Road and Parkside Drive, in the direction of the Northeast District headquarters, about a half-mile down the road on Argonne Drive.

Mark Heckman, who led the project for Marks, Thomas Architects, said the memorial stands on the main route officers take in dispersing from headquarters.

"For the officers coming down the street, [the memorial signifies] that somebody cares about what they do," said Chris Turner, the brother of Kevin McCarthy's former fiancM-ie.

Police and fire officials showed their support yesterday. For the event, firefighters positioned hook-and-ladder trucks on each street flanking the site, and they hung a large U.S. flag from their extended ladders over the memorial.

"When I see this - and I drive by this every day - it brings joy to my heart," said Detective Jeffrey D. Redd, an 18-year veteran who once worked in the Northeast District. "It's heartfelt because the community thinks this much of us."

Redd pulled open the ceremony program to show why he attended.

"We all worked together," he said, counting "one, two, three, four" as he pointed to the names of Lt. Owen E. Sweeney Jr., Platt, McCarthy and Police Agent Michael Cowdery Jr. All of them died on duty between May 1997 and March 2001. The fifth slain officer remembered yesterday, Sgt. Jack L. Cooper, died in 1964.

A few months after the deaths of McCarthy and Platt, Dawn McCarthy and Laurie Platt devised a plan to develop a permanent memorial. The two women raised money for the effort. With help from the city, Marks, Thomas Architects sought to render a design that would gain the support of the community and a nearby church. Construction began two months ago.

After much debate, the final product has something old and something new. The flower bed that the Arcadia Improvement Association cared for in the summers remains, and the scale of the memorial stands in modest contrast to an obelisk dedicated more than 200 years ago to Christopher Columbus.

"We always wanted the monument. We are happy it's here," said Steve Raskin, president of the Arcadia Improvement Association. McCarthy and Platt "deserve all the credit because they had the motivation and energy to get it done."

The struggle to complete the project motivated the two women through many of the difficult days they faced after their loved ones died, they said. Yet now that the project and dedication are complete, Laurie Platt said she is ready to look ahead.

The memorial "did give me a focus. My life will go on now, mine and my children's," she said.

Dawn McCarthy said more work will be needed for upkeep of the memorial, which is the first to honor officers from a single Baltimore police district. She has plans to start a scholarship fund in honor of the officers.

McCarthy said if others petition to build a memorial for slain officers of another district, "it would be a great honor to help participate."

O'Malley, an outspoken supporter of the Heinz memorial, was more hesitant about that possibility.

"We hope not to have any more memorials," said O'Malley, who has seen eight officers buried during his administration. "I hope not to have any more line-of-duty deaths."

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