As part of National Police Week, Pittsfield officers honored fellow law enforcement – past and present – from across Berkshire County on Thursday. The department then called on citizens for help.
The city’s Annual Police Memorial Ceremony opened with the Pittsfield Police Department and Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department Color Guard – with piping by the Berkshire Highlanders.
Mayor Linda Tyer proclaimed it Police Week in the City of Pittsfield.
“And we publicly salute the service of law enforcement officers from our community and from communities from across the nation,” Tyer says.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy established May 15th as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the entire week National Police Week.
Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn says it honors law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.
“In recognition of the service given by men and women who night and day stand guard in our midst to protect us through enforcement of our laws,” Wynn says.
President Bill Clinton amended Kennedy’s proclamation for the American flag and all municipal flags to be flown at half-staff on May 15th.
Nationally, more than 20,000 law enforcement officers have died while serving since the first recorded death in 1791 – 145 just last year, the most since 2011. 50 have died so far this year nationally.
“It doesn’t matter the decades of improvement in technology, equipment and training have been given to law enforcement. All of those improvements are little consolation to the families, loved ones, and colleagues of those officers who no longer return home at the end of their shift,” Wynn says.
Wynn then hailed those who are training to join the Pittsfield Police Department.
“This is not an easy time to join the profession of law enforcement. It's highly contentious, it's highly questionable, and there is no question it is dangerous. And yet they continue to sign up ,” Wynn says.
Pittsfield’s department has gone over budget due to overtime pay as it struggles to fill out the force with qualified recruits.
The department was budgeted last year to have 99 total officers, but as of April, even with the 20 new hires, it has just 81 on the force — not counting six who are unfit for duty for personal reasons.
“And these young men and women are the guardians of our civilization,” Wynn says.
Policing problems are not exclusive to Pittsfield. Nearby North Adams is also having trouble retaining police officers. Lee suspended its emergency dispatch services last month, joining the Berkshire County 911 dispatch center instead.
Wynn recognized local officers who died in the line of duty.