Community gathers to honor fallen SBPD officers

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - For nearly 60 years, law enforcement from across the country have honored their fallen officers as part of National Police Week.

A somber display in front of the South Bend Police Department Friday night honored the 15 officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Their families sat front row.

“It is important for them to be here,” South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski said. “But it's important for the officers to see them being here. They don't have to, but they [are] still, not just in remembrance but in support of the officers that we still have, and that's awesome.”

It's been 12 years since the city has suffered the loss of an officer.

“We don't want to add any more to this memorial whatsoever,” South Bend Common Council President Tim Scott said. “We have to do everything as a community, work in collaboration to make sure no other names are added to that. We've got to look for peace in our community.”

Last year across the United States, more than 150 officers lost their lives. This year, that number is more than 40 already.

Ruszkowski recently returned home from the nation's capital, where he visited a sobering landmark, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

“It’s the only memorial in Washington D.C. that will never, ever be finished,” Ruszkowski said. “When you really stop and think about it, that's absurd and amazing at the same time.”

At Friday's service, officers discussed a hidden battle cops may deal with: their mental health.

According to one officer, suicides among police officers are up by 89 percent this year alone nationwide.

“Some of these people see some very tragic things, and they have to deal with it,” Scott said. “We want to make sure that we have the services for them to deal with that as well.”

The memorial service is an annual tradition with an everyday message.

“I know it's only [one] day of the year, but there's 364 days still remaining, and please just take a second, if nothing else, and think about the fallen and think about the ones that are still doing this job,” Ruszkowski said.

Ruszkowski said people in the community should introduce themselves to officers to help build relations within the community.