By Stephanie M. Womble
“It was their duty to serve. It is ours to remember.” Those aren’t just words the Dade County PBA says a couple of times a year, or that we just print on posters. Those are words we believe. Those are words we live by. And, we back those words up with our actions, sometimes those actions are bold, and sometimes the actions are conducted quietly behind the scenes. This is a commitment the PBA has upheld for decades and one that we will never waver in upholding.
Our commitment comes not just from the respect we have for each officer who pins on a badge, or from understanding the risks each one faces, it also comes from our belief in family. We believe that law enforcement is a family and that family isn’t just our active serving members. It’s made up of our members’ families, our retired members and it includes the families of our fallen officers who gave their lives in the line of duty.
We aren’t naïve enough to think that our family doesn’t have squabbles, every family has squabbles, but at the end of the day, we are still a family. Because family isn’t about blood, it’s about who never leaves your side, who stands up for you, and who believes in you. So, we show up, and we stand up and we never stop believing in our family.
The Dade County PBA and the PBA’s Love Fund have supported our family in many ways over the past 50 years, from supporting and creating memorials to honor our fallen heroes, to making sure our fallen officer’s families needs are met. We’ve also worked hand in hand with other organizations like the POAT, the 200 Club, the National Police Law Enforcement Memorial, and Concerns of Police Survivors to make sure families get the support they need when they need it most. We’ve been there to support spouses, mothers, fathers, siblings and children as they put their lives back together. We’ve assisted with school tuition, medical and housing expenses, and so much more. We’ve made sure that families could attend parole hearings and we’ve attended with them, we’ve stood by them, and when they couldn’t speak, we’ve been their voice.
Throughout the commitment we’ve made to our survivors, quietly along the way we’ve learned from them. They’ve inspired us and taught us grace. They’ve remind us what matters. They’ve shown us that we can survive and that we are stronger than we think.
And for all of those reasons, we will never forget and we will continue to be there for our family.
The Dade County PBA has been a supporter of the Dade County Law Enforcement Memorial since the memorial’s inception. We are proud to assist with events that promote and maintain the memorial.
The Law Enforcement Officers Memorial was established in 1980 to honor fallen officers from every police department and law enforcement agency within Miami-Dade County. The original triple granite structure was unveiled in May 1981, and remains an integral part of the site. In 2001, four black granite walls were erected; etched with the names of the gallant men and women who died serving the citizens of their community. Today, 138 names grace these hallowed walls.
Two five-foot high towers were added to the site in 2002, to commemorate the law enforcement officers who were killed at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The Police Officer Assistance Trust is responsible for the care and preservation of the Memorial and has sworn to safeguard the memory of each officer lost in the line of duty. The Memorial is located at Tropical Park in Miami, Florida, and stands as a tribute to heroism and sacrifice.
The Dade County Police Benevolent Association commissioned a unique tribute as a reminder that law enforcement officers are committed to their calling, and are willing to lay down their lives at any given moment so that others may live in peace. Each September the PBA’s “Fallen Officer Tribute” is exhibited in the lobby of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center. It is composed of 138 mannequins each wearing black T-shirts with white lettering reading “I Died for You” on the front, and the fallen officer’s name and date of death on the back of the shirt. The names of their departments are symbolically left off to represent unity and a shared calling.
The exhibit’s intent is also to raise awareness about the daily risks and challenges that law enforcement officers face.
In 2010, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution declaring the month of September “Fallen Officer Tribute Month” in Miami-Dade County to honor officers who have died in service to this community.
“Officer Down” Memorial in Tallahassee
The PBA’s “Officer Down” memorial which honors Florida’s law enforcement officers who have dedicated and given their lives to serving and protecting Florida’s citizens, is located at the State Capitol Plaza. The statue is a permanent reminder of the ever-present dangers facing law enforcement and was unveiled by Dade County and Florida PBA President John Rivera and Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
PBA President John Rivera’s feelings were that the other memorial, a small wall around a tree where all the names of Florida’s officers killed in the line of duty are etched, needed something more that would make people stop and think about the risks that officers face. Rivera’s commitment to honoring law enforcement’s heroes was so strong that he made it a goal during his first term as Florida PBA President to erect this memorial at our State Capitol fitting the courage of every officer brave enough, strong enough and proud enough to wear the badge.
The Florida, Dade, Broward and West Palm Beach Police Benevolent Associations commissioned Tallahassee sculptor Michael Jernigan, who each year sculpts artwork live in the Capitol Rotunda, to create the life-size bronze statue that now stands as a symbol of the PBA’s dedication, commitment and respect for the men and women who proudly serve and protect Floridians each and every day.
Day in and day out law enforcement officers spend much of their lives patrolling our streets ensuring that our community is safe. They also make the ultimate sacrifice on these streets: Giving their lives in the protection of others. It seemed only fitting to memorialize our fallen officers on the streets that they diligently patrolled provided peace of mind to the residents of Miami Dade County. Which is why the PBA along with the support of former Miami-Dade Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Commissioner Joe Martinez, founded the street dedication program. “It’s the PBA’s goal for these streets bear their names as a tribute to how these officers lived and what they stood for. Our community should never forget the heroes who pin on the badge and safeguard our streets preserving our way of life.
In addition to honoring law enforcement officers for outstanding acts of bravery, the Dade County PBA remembers our fallen officers through an emotional tribute at the event.
The Dade County PBA upholds a commitment to ensuring that justice is served and that the voices and memories of officers killed in the line of duty are never forgotten by tracking, attending and speaking at the parole hearings.