PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The City of Peoria is recognizing both current and late police officers just ahead of National Police Week.
In a special memorial ceremony held Wednesday afternoon, dozens of officers along with members of the community came together outside of City Hall to remember those who’ve lost their lives in the line of duty.
The annual service began with a procession of law enforcement vehicles, followed by officers walking in unison to the tune of bagpipes before making their way to the podium for prayers and words of recognition.
“We want to be able to sit back and reflect. It’s a very difficult job that the men and women that are behind me that wear this uniform do every day,” Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria, said. “They put their lives on the line and to find a day to remember that and honor that is very important.”
Echevarria said there have been 15 officers killed on the job in the history of the Peoria Police Department.
The service continued with a prayer for appreciation and the laying of the rose section for those who passed on.
“We will never forget the officers who’ve gone before us, answered the call, and paid the ultimate sacrifice, ensuring our peace and safety,” Pastor Martin Johnson said.
Echevarria said the service was also important for those who are relatives of fallen officers.
“We can’t do this job without the support of our community and more specifically the support of our loved ones who see us go out every day and see the stress on our faces,” Echevarria said.
Descendants of the men and women in blue, such as cousins Joe Jochman and Julie Leonard, said the ceremony brought them joy.
“Our great-grandfather was the first officer killed in the line of duty back in 1894,” Jochman said.
Jochman said due to the time of his death, it took years before their great-grandfather was able to get a plaque. But they said they’re proud to see his name memorialized.
“Tears come to your eyes and we’re very proud to know that he is being honored in this way,” Leonard said.
After the ceremony, the city also held an awards program to recognize the accomplishments of current officers.