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How Richmond honors officers who died more than 100 years ago

How Richmond honors officers who died more than 100 years ago
Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 18:14:03-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Cadets with the Richmond Police Department lit a candle in honor of 40 officers who were killed in the line of duty in the city.

RPD and city officials honored the fallen heroes during the city’s Police Officers’ Memorial Service at the police training academy on Thursday morning.

The cadets then announced the names of the officers as well as the date of their end of duty, followed by the ringing of a bell.

“Those we honor today share a legacy of selflessness, of duty, integrity and courage,” said Chief Gerald Smith. “They rush in to defend, protect and service. They come to the rescue of those in need, go to places others dare not. Answer the call for service no matter the time, day, or weather.”

Since 1869, 40 Richmond Police officers have died in the line of duty. The most recent death happened in 2003.

Chief Smith also honored 22 local officers, most of who were retired, who passed away since the last Police Officers’ Memorial Day last year.

“It’s okay to talk with your loved ones, your friends, your fellow officers, with supervisors. It’s okay not to be okay during these historical moments,” he stated.

Last year, the coronavirus forced the service online. National Police Week, which typically takes place in May, was moved to the week of October 11 to ensure an opportunity for in-person attendance.

Mayor Levar Stoney presented a signed proclamation recognizing Richmond Police Week from October 11 through 17, 2021.

Families of the fallen heroes spanning generations attended the service including Paul Cooper. Paul’s brother, Patrolman David Cooper, died in a car crash on Broad Street while on duty on February 10, 1970.

“I tell young people I meet at the time, take advantage of their youth because it goes very quickly,” Cooper told CBS 6 following the ceremony.

Despite 50 years that have passed since his brother’s death, Cooper said that day seems like it happened recently.

Cooper also served with the Richmond Police Department during the time of his brother’s death. He left advice to the newest generation of Richmond officers.

“Be compassionate and helpful,” he replied. “It’s not all about trying to catch someone doing something.”

Penn Burke’s grandfather, Sergeant J. Harvey Burke, was shot and killed while on duty in the city in July 1925.

“He left behind his wife and four children. My dad being the youngest, only two months old at the time,” Burke recalled.

Nearly a century has passed since Sgt. Burke’s death.

“I’ve heard lots of stories about how great a person he ways and everything and just died way too young,” Burke said.

The families then placed a wreath at the stone memorial outside that’s etched with the names of the fallen.

“They’ll always be remembered,” Burke said. “You never forget a family member that paid the ultimate price for sacrificing their life, serving and protecting.”

The names of 10 Richmond Police officers who died during a balcony collapse on April 27, 1870, were also added to the memorial outside the training academy this year.

The officers were on duty at the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to provide security for the controversial decision associated with the reconstruction of the city, according to the police department. Their deaths were caused by the collapse of the courtroom balcony which sent the floor and approximately 300 people to fall shortly after the session convened.