Officers from Centerville and six other local police departments are in Washington, D.C., this week at the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial to pay tribute to those who died in the line of duty.
Last year, 144 officers were killed on duty. So far in 2019, 42 have died in the line of duty.
The local departments will pay tribute to Centerville Police Officer John Kalaman, who died in January 1998 at the age of 29. Kalaman and Washington Twp. firefighter Robert O’Toole, 26, were killed after responding to an accident on Interstate 675 at Wilmington Pike.
John Davis of the Centerville Police Department said the local contingent includes his city’s honor guard, Kalaman’s parents, plus officers from Oakwood, Miami Twp., Kettering, Beavercreek and Dayton.
While investigating the scene on the highway, Kalaman, O’Toole and firefighter Charles Arnold were struck by a car whose driver lost control while speeding on the slick roadway.
Kalaman, a five-year police department veteran, was killed at the scene. O’Toole, who had been with the department for four years, died at Miami Valley Hospital. Arnold, who was seriously injured, survived.
The tragedy rocked the community. Kalaman was the first police officer Centerville had lost in the line of duty, and Washington Twp. had not lost a firefighter since 1955.
Davis detailed how the loss of Kalaman still stings two decades later.
“As we do every year, we keep our promise to John Kalaman that he’s never forgotten,” Davis explained. “Our honor guard comes up to National Police Week every year to honor his sacrifice and the sacrifice of so many. It is very important to us.”
Davis said that every year he wants to remind people of what an incredible person Kalaman was and the effort he put forth to make Centerville a better place.
“Even after his death, his legacy is carried on with the scholarships we’ve been able to award,” he said. “We’ve awarded over $370,000 in scholarships to local students in his name. There is also an annual blood drive in his name that has helped save countless lives.”
The blood drive is held on Kalaman’s birthday each year in April. To date there have been more than 4,000 units of blood donated.
Nearly 22,000 officers who have died in the line of duty are honored at the memorial.
President John F. Kennedy established National Peace Officers Memorial Day in 1962 to honor fallen police officers who lost their life in the line of duty.
This year, 371 new names were added on the memorial wall.
“The law enforcement memorial is the only memorial that will never be finished,” said Davis.
Davis said Kalaman’s parents are there, too.
“It was really important for us to be here for them,” Davis said. “We are all one big family. The blue family is huge. We want to make sure that the entire country remembers what the fallen officers stood for and what they have done.”
He said people in Centerville and across the country should remember not only the officers who have sacrificed their lives, but also those who are currently protecting and serving citizens.
“It’s amazing how so many people don’t realize that May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day, even though it has been in effect since the Kennedy era.” Davis said. “They see the flags, see the covered badges and they want to know ‘why?’ and we have to explain it to them. It would be real nice if everyone understood that.”
Today’s 11 a.m. memorial on the west front of the Capitol is one of the highlights of the week for those in attendance.
President Donald Trump released a proclamation stating in part, “On Peace Officers Memorial Day and throughout Police Week, we express our unending gratitude to our Nation’s law enforcement officers. Those brave men and women selflessly confront danger to protect our families and defend our communities. We also honor those in blue who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty.”
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