Public Safety Memorial, Paso Robles California

Pictures and text by Michael Smiley

The pictures of the Public Safety Memorial were taken in May 2005 during at the annual memorial service. Due to the service, there were numerous people around, making overall pictures difficult to get.


Titled "Reward for Valour." A bronze statue of a police officer and fire fighter exchanging a child. This is the main element of the Public Safety Memorial. It captures the essence of public safety, especially utilizing the element of the rescue of a child. It further attempts to illustrate the cooperation and bonds shared between police officers and firefighters.
An overall view of the memorial. The statues with the flags raised above them. The semi-circular brick wall around the back lists the names of those who lost their lives in the line of duty. This photo was taken just after the annual memorial service. I am standing in front of the statues.
The left section of brick wall. The semi-circular brick wall around the back lists the names of those who lost their lives in the line of duty. It lists their name, agency, and the date of their "End of Watch." The concept of the "End of Watch" is important in Law Enforcement as it symbolizes an officer's duty to watch over and safeguard the public.

Throughout history, civilizations have honored their dead through funerals and memorials. This has taken many different forms, from the Egyptian art of mummification, to the funeral pyres and games that followed them in Ancient Greece. In today's society, funerals and graves can be simple or elaborate. It is often said funerals are more for the sake of the living. It allows them to "say goodbye" and gain an important element of closure. Memorials are also for the sake of the living. We construct different types of memorials for various reasons, but mostly as a reminder. Memorials dedicated to those who sacrificed their lives during wartime and during peacetime will always hold a special place in our society. We want to remember the heroic efforts of those who died and hope their efforts will never have to be repeated.

Societies are complex when it comes to the remembrance of those who lost their lives in wartime. People are moved to remember the soldier's sacrifice for many different reasons. Some feel they should be honored and rightfully so. It is important to recall the sacrifice made by those who died defending our way of life. Others feel guilty they were left alive, or perhaps that they did not participate at all. Some memorials are designed for people to recognize the contributions of the dead made to the war effort and to educate people on the participation and valor of certain ethnic groups that are discriminated against. Good examples of this might be the United States Colored Troops Regiments from the American Civil War or the Japanese-American combat units from World War II. Finally, the cause should always be remembered. It is important for future generations to learn from our past. They need to be taught why we fought against the Nazi ideals in World War II etc., in hopes that these past conditions will never occur again. But equally important in teaching our children is to give them the courage and inspiration necessary to fight such a war if should ever occur again.

The reasons listed above are strikingly similar to the motivations for the memorials constructed to honor and remember police officers that have also made the ultimate sacrifice. In our society, the police officers protect us and our way of life. Like the soldier, a police officer puts his life on the line to confront the evils of society that others would rather not acknowledge. A memorial dedicated to police officers serves to remember them and their ideals, just like soldiers. They may be constructed for many of the same reasons including, recognition, guilt, ethnic contributions and lastly ideology. With both types of memorials, it is important to realize that regardless of the motivations for their construction, the ultimate goal is remembrance.

In California, I found another memorials that can illustrate the similarities between a memorial honoring our soldiers and our police officers. For comparison, see the Mission Viejo Veterans' Memorial.

On the central coast of California, stands another effort by a community to honor and remember heroes. In Paso Robles California stands a memorial dedicated to their community's police officers that have given their lives in the line of duty. It too is constructed mostly of stone and red bricks with the names of fallen officers. Rising above the memorial are several flags, the predominant one of course is the ever-important American Flag. There is also a statue of a police officer and firefighter. This memorial was also built with the idea of expansion in mind. It allows for the addition of plaques in the unfortunate but inevitable event of the death of a police officer. A distinguishing feature at this memorial is a silver bell. During any memorial event, the officer's name is read and the bell is rung. This symbolizes the last time the bell will ring for them calling them to duty. Lastly, on each brick, along with their name and agency is the date of their "End of Watch." The concept of the "End of Watch" is important in Law Enforcement as it symbolizes an officer's duty to watch over and safeguard the public. Once again, this memorial has a community focus as well.

One of the few downfalls of both of these types of memorials is the narrow group of people they remember. The names of the soldiers and police officers listed are typically those from the community. This highlights the community's contribution to the war effort and their loss. Although this does leave out the multitude of others from our society who lost their lives, we must remember this is the primary focus and purpose of this type of memorial. Both memorials make reference to "all who served and died" but the focus is really a bit more narrow. Neither monument addresses the impact of these events on society, but once again, they were constructed for a different purpose, to remember a narrow group of individuals who contributed and made the ultimate sacrifice.

There are a few other features regarding remembering soldiers and police officers that bear mentioning. The funeral services for both are strikingly similar as well. Both consist of honor guards, a twenty-one-gun salute, and the playing of Taps. An American Flag is draped over the casket for the service, folded and presented to the spouse or family symbolizing our nations gratitude. As I have attended and participated as an honor guard member in both services, I can tell you they are always a very emotional and heartfelt occasion.

Throughout history, the concept of law enforcement and police officers were born from the military. Because of this, it is not surprising to find so many similarities in their traditions. This can readily be seen through their use of uniforms, command structure and discipline. When it comes to remembering the sacrifices made by soldiers and police officers, their funerals and memorials often encompass many of the same elements. We must strive as a society to continue to remember the legacy left by these two groups of extraordinary people and teach the future generations.


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