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Minnesota marks Peace Officer Memorial Day with 24-hour watch

Minnesota marks Peace Officers Memorial Day
Minnesota marks Peace Officers Memorial Day 03:57

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota marked Peace Officer Memorial Day Wednesday with a 24-hour watch, flags flying at half-staff and other ceremonies. 

The watch will lead into a ceremony Wednesday night in St. Paul as part of a national effort to remember fallen officers.

"This is an opportunity for us to just stop and pause and actually think about these individuals a people," Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association President Brian Hubbard said.  

Wednesday is Peace Officer Memorial Day across the U.S. Some local law enforcement leaders are in Washington D.C. this week for events, including Golden Valley Chief Virgil Green and Burnsville Chief Tanya Schwartz. 

Sobering stats

More than 300 officers have been killed in the line of duty in Minnesota, including during each of the last two years.

Two Burnsville officers and a firefighter/paramedic were killed in a shooting earlier this year.  

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says 14 law enforcement officers were shot last year, one of whom died. Police were also shot at nearly 60 times last year.

State crime data shows assaults on officers more than doubled over the last five years. 

Nationally, a new FBI report says the number of police assaulted by guns last year was the most in at least a decade.

The BCA says it's received at least 13 cases to investigate so far this year in which police used deadly force.

It looked at 18 cases last year, which resulted in the deaths of 10 people. Two officers were criminally charged.

Attacks on law enforcement officers on the rise in Minnesota 02:24

Supporting the victims

After a Hennepin County sheriff's deputy was shot and another was injured serving a warrant in April, Sheriff Dawanna Witt said, "They do not deserve to be threatened. They do not deserve to be assaulted. They do not deserve to be killed for doing their job of trying to keep the community safe."

The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners has proclaimed it "Police Week." Sheriff Bob Fletcher called up Dep. Joe Kill during Tuesday's board meeting. He's back at work after being shot during a car chase this year.  

"The weaponry of the assault rifles, the type of guns that are out there, make this job far more dangerous," Fletcher said. "You can imagine the trauma that causes your loved ones, [and] his 17-year-old daughter who thought something like that would never occur."

24-hour watch precedes memorial ceremony

Ahead of a 7 p.m. memorial service, active law enforcement officers are standing guard in a 24-hour vigil that started Tuesday night. Around 400 officers take turns on the watch and all 306 names of fallen Minnesota officers will be read throughout the vigil.

Hubbard, who also serves at the Crystal deputy chief, says it's an important reminder for survivor families.

"We can look at all of the survivors in our state and say we actually haven't forgotten about you," he said. "Because every one of those names will have been read in that 24-hour period."

Several speakers, including Gov. Tim Walz, will take to the podium in Wednesday night's ceremony. The service will include full law enforcement ceremonial honors.  

Down the road at Mears Park, the 60th Annual St. Paul Police Department Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Service took place Wednesday afternoon.

"Families know that the names and legacies of your loved ones are also the names and legacies of our loved ones," St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said. "Know that the pain you feel today our city feels today. The grief and loss you feel today we feel today."

Governor orders flags at half-staff

Walz ordered all flags at state buildings to fly at half-staff on Wednesday in honor of peace officers who have been injured or killed in the line of duty.

"We thank the more than 10,499 law enforcement officers in Minnesota who serve in 408 law enforcement agencies for their dedication and services to Minnesota communities," Walz said.

Walz also proclaimed Wednesday "Peace Officer Memorial Day" in the state, and May 12 -18 as "Police Week."

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