SALISBURY — For the next six days, a white flag with red and gold borders and a blue police badge at its heart will be flying under an American flag on Broadway. The flag was raised to half staff yesterday morning by Salisbury police officers as part of National Peace Officer Memorial Day.
In a brief ceremony, organized by Salisbury police Officer Michael Alder and Sgt. Timothy Hunter, Chief Thomas Fowler read off the names of the nine fallen Massachusetts police officers recently etched upon the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“It’s a way to recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Fowler said.
National Peace Officer Memorial Day was signed into law in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy and is part of National Police Week.
In addition to about a dozen Salisbury police officers, firefighters, selectmen and Town Manager Neil Harrington were at the ceremony held during a crisp, sunny spring morning yards away from the Broadway flagpole. A video technician was recording the event and about 10 residents stood in the background soaking up the scene. Also in attendance was Amesbury police Chief Mark Gagnon, a Salisbury resident invited by Fowler to participate.
“This is my home and we do a lot of work together,” Gagnon said, referring to his Salisbury peer. “It’s good to stop and remember all this,” Gagnon added.
For Salisbury police officers, yesterday marked a paid holiday, time off negotiated with town officials during the most recent contract talks. As a way of saying “thank you” to residents, Salisbury police officers organized yesterday’s ceremony and vowed to hold it each May 15.
Alder, president of patrolman’s union Local 15 and past commander of the department’s honor guard, said it took about a month to coordinate all the working pieces that went into yesterday’s ceremony adding it was something he felt should have started years ago.
“Most of the guys know it’s long overdue,” Alder said.
Around 10 a.m. yesterday, Alder led about a dozen police officers, most of them off-duty, as they marched from the Railroad Avenue police station to Broadway where a wreath was waiting. A few yards away from the station, Gagnon, who is retiring from the Amesbury Police Department early next month, joined the formation.
About 140 to 160 officers are killed in the line of duty each year, according to Concerns of Police Survivors, a national organization aimed at providing resources for families of slain officers.
Last week, Fowler joined more than 700 officers across the country in a multi-state bicycle ride to celebrate National Police Week. Riders began their journey in East Hanover, N.J., and biked hundreds of miles south to Washington, D.C., where they converged upon the peace officer memorial.
“It’s an incredible experience,” Fowler said.