Ceremony, memorial recall fallen officers

Police officers, city leaders, residents, and families of many of the 10 police officers who died during the course of Tacoma’s 120-year history were honored yesterday during a ceremony to dedicate a memorial outside Tacoma Police Department headquarters at 3701 South Pine Street.

“It’s appropriate we honor fallen officers, and think about the 375 commissioned officers who serve us today,” said Deputy Mayor Mike Lonergan, who spoke during a somber, two-hour event that included renaming an entrance to the station after a late officer, James G. Lewis, and gospel music performed by the Wilson High School CenterStage Jazz Choir.

“Each [officer] rushes into danger almost everyday,” Lonergan added. “In most cases, they are hurrying to situations that most of us would move away from. Going to the greatest point of danger is what they do 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

“The many risks and dangers to officers come in a variety of ways, and support the notion there is no such thing as a routine call,” said Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell. He called the fallen officers “dedicated servants of law who devoted their lives to keeping the community safe.”

The memorial sits outside a three-story, 72,000-square-foot headquarters that opened last fall. In 2002, voters approved a $34.3 million bond to pay for the building and four substations throughout the city.

“More than two-thirds of the citizens of Tacoma voted to give [our police officers] the facilities,” added Lonergan. “They voted to tax themselves in an anti-tax era. It’s a testament to our officers of a job well-done.”

The memorial has three elements.

In front of the headquarters, an abstract combination of glass, steel, bronze, and stone rise 16 feet in a design by Port Orchard artist James Kelsey. The sculpture is meant to evoke an officer climbing a rock and releasing broken pieces of a thin blue line into an imaginary wind. On the south side of the building, the names and biographies of the fallen officers are etched into a sloping piece of marble. A blue, tiled, 85-foot line run sbetween the memorials, and features a poem by detective Randi Goetz.

“When I first applied, I didn’t think I had much of a chance,” said Kelsey, referring to the abstract nature of his work. Kelsey, a former firefighter, is designing eight pieces of art that will be displayed throughout the city’s police department. “Most memorials are much more literal. I think it says a lot about the City of Tacoma to go outside the box.”

Kelsey presented pieces of glass used in the memorial to eight of the 10 surviving families of the late officers. The fallen police officers remembered in the memorial are:

— Minor Cudihee: July 30, 1892

— William Wickman: Aug. 9, 1925

— Paul A. Trent: Nov. 23, 1941

— Martin Joyce: Nov. 25, 1941

— L. Ben Overdahl: Jan. 22, 1957

— Larry Frost: Sept. 9, 1977

— Craig A. Nollmeyer: Jan. 24, 1985

— Larry Walker: Oct. 25, 1986

— William F. Lowry: Aug. 28, 1997

— James G. Lewis: April 27, 2004

Referring to the names and biographies that appear on one part of the memorial, Kelsey commented, “I didn’t want just names and dates — I wanted stories. When you hear their stories, you remember them long after you leave here.”