We Will Never Forget

2015 California Memorial Ceremony

The State Capitol was the setting for the 39th annual California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony on May 3 and 4. Officers and law enforcement supporters honored the 13 officers killed in the line of duty in 2014 (and five from previous years) and paid respects to those officers’ surviving family members.

The History of the California Memorial (Part 2)

Click Here for Part 1 of this article.

Rick Baratta

A New Chapter, Another Memorial

In 1986, Governor George Deukmejian called upon Senator Robert Presley to again sponsor legislation establishing a suitable memorial to peace officers who died in the line of duty.

The establishment of the nine-member California Peace Officers’ Commission from this legislation developed into a new chapter in the memorial story. Just as the task of raising money to build the original memorial years before was a huge undertaking, the commissioners had to set their sights on building a memorial monument that would stand for many years to come.

Appointments to the commission were made from various cross-sections of the law enforcement community. Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and Senate Pro Tem David Roberti selected two members each, with the governor presenting a list of five peace officers as commissioners.

The nine-member group consisted of eight peace officers and one police widow: Dick Moore, chief of Atherton P.D., and Phil Jordon, a police officer with the City of Vallejo, were elected chairman and vice-chairman respectively. Lieutenant George Aliano of the Los Angeles Police Protective League was elected secretary, and Bob Applegate of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, a state traffic officer, was named to serve as the commission treasurer.

CA Memorial

Other commissioners representing large associations were Sergeant Jim Vogts, State Marshals; John Duffy, Sheriff of San Diego County; and Art Brown, Deputy Sheriff and a member of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs; Mrs. Sammy Hoyt, widow of Deputy David Hoyt, Lake County Sheriff’s Department; and Senior Officer Gil Coerper, Huntington Beach Police Department, along with Jordan, represented PORAC.

The executive officer was a unanimous selection: Al LeBas, retired division chief with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and law enforcement liaison for Governor Deukmejian. LeBas was responsible for the general accounting of funds, scheduling of meetings, and a great deal of coordinating between the commission, the state, private agencies, and the sculptors and artists who submitted designs.

During the term of the commission, general expenses of members proved to be very low. Each member’s own organization took turns hosting meetings; since all meetings were kept to one day each, the only major expense was airfare. The commission was also fortunate to have the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) organization provide the accounting services.

The Design

The first major agenda item was the design of the monument. The group was presented with five designs. Each had unique qualities and reflected the sculptor’s thoughts about the death and history of the peace officer. Each sculptor/artist was also asked to present a financial estimate of the proposal and ideas on funding the project.

The design selected provided the viewer with a simple view of California law enforcement and its history, as well as the tragedy of losing an officer in the line of duty. The artist selected gave the best overall image of the project and an outstanding financial package as well. Vic Riesau, retired LASD Division Chief turned sculptor, was very generous with ideas and very receptive to thoughts from the commission. His funding package was very acceptable because it provided the necessary plan to raise money to build the monument, while allowing each major contributor the opportunity to possess one of 500 numbered two-piece replicas of the statue.

The Fundraising

The legislation required that the monument be in place in three years. The legislation was also specific about duties and responsibilities of each commissioner and established a sunset clause, December 31, 1988. This was extended to December 31, 1989.

A massive publicity and marketing campaign was started next. Law enforcement agencies in California were notified, as well as POAs, DSAs and many other statewide associations. It was initially hoped that all money raised would come from peace officers themselves.

After the design was circulated throughout California, many groups began reserving one or more of the 500 two-piece sets. Photos of Vic Riesau’s design were published in many statewide publications, giving the contributors a view of what they were supporting.

The effort to keep this a “cop­-funded only” project fell short, however. Even with the generous support of second and third donations from several associations, the commission had to turn to “in kind” and “at cost” contributors from the private sector.

Added costs of several unanticipated changes in the project made the May 1988 deadline even more difficult. As dedication day neared, the contributions slowed, but many major contributors increased their donation to reflect newly designed “silver shield” and “gold star” categories. Bronze plaques on the back of the monument commemorate their support.

Peacekeepers Honored

The weather was also a major factor in May 1988. The day before the dedication ceremony and enrollment of officers who died in the line of duty during 1987, heavy rains threatened to spoil the many months of preparation. Workers spent many hours toiling over every detail, working late into the night, knowing that at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 13, several thousand people would be looking at their craftsmanship.

That dedication and support was truly reflected when Governor Deukmejian released the cover from atop the monument. At that moment more than 2,500 people, some seated and some standing, just stared at the three figures looking out into the grassy and tree-lined park. For a few brief seconds there seemed to be total silence, followed by thunderous applause.

As the woman and child figures and each individual plaque bearing hundreds of peace officers’ names were unveiled, the pride and sense of honor that began to emerge from everyone present was almost overwhelming. As families, friends and many peace officers began to push forward with the hope of getting a closer look, some had smiles, some had tears, while others just stood and stared.

At that moment, all of California had their memorial to honor their keepers of the peace. Just about everyone had to reach out and touch a leg, shoe or hand of the three-figured statue, or the woman and child sitting on the park bench a few feet away.

The speeches, handshakes and kind words of sympathy all but faded from memory, but the sense of unity and oneness remained as uniformed officers and deputies, wives, mothers and fathers, children and friends slowly moved about.

The Peace Officers’ Memorial Commission is now a vested part of California history. Its task is finished. Hopefully, the public, as well as the more than 60,000 peace officers in California, are grateful for the long hours and attention to detail shown by all of those involved with the project.

About the Author

An expert on the history of PORAC, Rick Baratta has been a life member since 1956 and has served in many capacities, including as General Manager and PORAC LE News Editor from 1976 to 1989.

The Meaning of the Memorial

In 1987, Rick Baratta reflected on the memorial’s significance in a speech at the annual memorial ceremony:

It’s a good job, really. Except for the wear and tear on the soul, and a little more — always a little more, as the list of names attests. An average of 15 officers a year will be killed enforcing the people’s law in California, for the laws they pass two by two we pay for one by one.

Although death may be the final commitment to our code, it is not the only commitment nor the only cost. Leonidas never asked his soldiers to spend 20 years holding the Persians back, but society expects the peace officer to stand in arms over 20 years holding back the jungle.

And each generation of peace officers will toll their 300 — or be tolled. More than half of each generation of peace officers will never reach normal retirement, for the wear and tear and strain will take them out. Like ToffIer’s “planned obsolescence,” they will become society’s “throwaway” cops.

No bells will toll for them. Their names will never be recorded. No solemn ceremonies will be held. They are the discards and rejects of our profession, whose human frailties could not weather the unendurable stand in arms.

Still, the shield the peace officer wears today stands as the shield of the Spartans stood between their people and their people’s enemy. And I tell you, their task is noble. Their task is august, and the names we place each year in the memorial book of the dead attests that they are pledged to that final commitment. And their word, pledged and kept, is a measure of their worth.

A New World in the Media

The world of news media is fluid. How news is reported and shared is constantly changing, and the incidents in South Carolina and San Bernardino can be seen by millions within hours. Twitter and Facebook have created real-time news at a speed that was never thought possible. Reading the morning newspaper to rehash yesterday’s news is out, and following reporters on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit is in. Hashtags are statements. What one person tweets right now has the possibility to be retweeted a million times within a matter of minutes.

Camera phones capture police interactions every day. The majority of those interactions are never seen by the public, because nothing out of the ordinary happens. Officers do their jobs with care and integrity through difficult situations, proud to serve and protect.

Anyone who chooses the law enforcement field knows that the incidents that receive media coverage are the exception, not the rule. PORAC’s more than 67,000 members interact with members of their communities thousands of times each day. The great majority of those instances end without fanfare, and both officer and citizen are able to quickly and safely go about their business.

But as we have seen in recent days and months, when a bystander armed with a camera phone catches an officer using force, odds are that the footage will be shared with the local news, and if it proves to be provocative enough, national media will be quick to pick it up. The blogosphere will also go wild.

In this time of digital sharing culture, it is critical to remember our training and our commitment to our communities. There will be stories, some bad and some open to interpretation, but none of it changes our belief in service.

While Twitter hashtags like #blacklivesmatter and #icantbreathe went viral within hours of the news of Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s deaths, becoming combative will only create tension within the community that will be very difficult to resolve responsibly.

Everyone who has lost a family member understands the anguish that runs parallel to the emptiness created in death. When that loss of life is caught on film and shared far and wide, it is obvious that that loss can only be harder to come to terms with. As we saw with the young officer gunned down in Arizona whose body-camera footage was released and viewed by millions of strangers, such public display of a person’s final moments can be devastating.

PORAC as an organization has been a leader in bridging the gap that exists between law enforcement and those we serve. There has never been a more important time to focus on that aim. The work that PORAC members do on a regular basis is critically important. It is unfortunate that a strain has been created, but you must continue to be understanding of the concerns of your neighbors, while striving to provide the best service possible.

Media outreach on behalf of PORAC’s membership continues to change with the times. PORAC leadership has been a key stakeholder in discussions among policymakers regarding law enforcement involvement in the community, interactions with those suffering from mental illness, the use of body-worn cameras and a plethora of other issues. While many of these topics stir up intense emotions among all parties, you should be proud of your leadership for being at the table for this important dialogue. Our team will continue to support the efforts of PORAC leadership and members at large as we regain ground that has been lost due to a very few incidents overshadowing the work done by California law enforcement officers.

Make sure to follow PORAC on YouTube (www.YouTube.com/PORACalifornia), Facebook (www.Facebook.com/PORAC) and Twitter (www.Twitter.com/PORACalifornia) for updates.

If you have any questions regarding PORAC’s outreach efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (916) 448-3444, or TMcHale@AaronRead.com and Chelsea@MarketplaceCommunications.com.

The History of the California Memorial (Part 1)

Rick Baratta

Peace Officers Memorial Day

In 1970, California had done little to honor the final sacrifices made each year by its fallen peace officers. The federal government had already declared May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, but recognition by the state had not followed. Finally, at the urging of Abraham Sussman, who had been instrumental in campaigning for the national memorial day, the issue was brought to the attention of the state and PORAC.

Under the presidency of Kenny Joseph of La Mesa, PORAC encouraged Senator Jack Schrade, Chairman of the important Senate Rules Committee, to introduce a resolution that would officially establish May 15 as California Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week in which May 15 occurs as Peace Officers Week. Senate Rules Resolution Number 137 was adopted on May 20, 1970. The resolution concluded: “RESOLVED, That a suitably prepared copy of this resolution be transmitted to Mr. Kenneth W. Joseph, president, Peace Officers Research Association of California.”

PORAC was therefore instrumental in establishing California Peace Officers Memorial Day, but more than this seemed necessary to emphasize the significance and importance of the occasion.

Another Resolution Needed

In 1975, Joe Aceto of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department was elected to the presidency of PORAC. Aceto, along with PORAC Director Walter Colfer, also of San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, met with Rick and Don Baratta to discuss the issue of a memorial. Rick Baratta, former chief of police, was then a consultant with POST and a liaison to PORAC. Rick’s brother Don would later write articles for the PORAC Law Enforcement News.

It was decided at this meeting that another resolution should be introduced, calling for a memorial containing the names of California peace officers slain in the line of duty to be erected in a “prominent location near the entrance of the State Capitol.” Walter Colfer wrote the resolution and Senator Robert Presley, former undersheriff of Riverside County, introduced it as Senate Concurrent Resolution 94 on April 6, 1976. It passed without opposition. In the resolution, the memorial was not specifically described. This was done purposely so that there would be no controversy to impede its successful passage.

CA Memorial Dedication

The First Memorial

Before the year was out, Rick Baratta was employed by PORAC as the General Manager, and Joe Aceto won another term as President. One of the first orders of business was to raise money and construct a memorial to comply with the Senate Resolution. Rick and Don Baratta designed the memorial, and PORAC asked the state’s police departments and associations to send in the names of officers who had died in the line of duty, and to contribute money to build the memorial.

The names came pouring in, some from the last century, a total of nearly 1,000. The money came in a bit slower, from donations of a single dollar to $1,000 each from the California Association of Highway Patrol Officers and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

The design of the memorial called for the names of the officers to be recorded in a large leather and vellum book, flanked by two large medieval swords. Dave Keenan built the memorial case. Dick Calonder handcrafted the book, and Brenda Walton painted the illuminated design and inscribed by hand the names of the officers who had died in the line of duty. Swords of the designated type were not available, so Don Baratta carved them from wood and had them cast in bronze and plated. He also carved the handles of the swords from rosewood.

California Memorial


During the construction of the memorial, it became apparent that a committee should be established to handle the continual policy decisions that were necessary. Joe Aceto asked Senator Presley to chair the committee and appointed Gene Muehleisen, past President of PORAC and former Executive Director of POST; Sammy Hoyt, widow of former PORAC President Dave Hoyt, who had been murdered by an escaping prisoner; and the Reverend Frank Nouza, PORAC Chaplain and graduate of the Oakland Police Academy. The committee developed the guidelines for the inclusion of names in the memorial book, as well as the process employed for keeping track of those peace officers who died during the year.

The first memorial was finally built and mounted on a wall at the entrance of the east wing of the Capitol. An article in the PORAC Law Enforcement News described the initial dedication ceremonies:

“On Friday, Oct. 14, 1977, the California Peace Officers’ Memorial was dedicated with dignity and care near the governor’s office and the legislative chambers of the State Capitol.

“Governor Jerry Brown accepted the impressive monument from PORAC President Joe Aceto and Senator Robert Presley of Riverside. Father Frank Nouza, PORAC chaplain, gave the Invocation.

“The memorial, a huge book bound in leather, contains the handlettered names of more than 1,000 state and local officers who have been killed since 1850 while performing their duties in California. There are pages enough to stretch forward to the twenty-first century. Two glistening swords flank the book and a taped message tells the visitors what it’s all about.

“The memorial was placed, not without purpose, near the legislative chambers, and part of the tape-recorded message states: ‘This memorial was deliberately placed in the pathway of our legislators to remind them that every law they pass must be paid for.’” (Ten years later, the tape recording was removed during restoration.)

Since then, memorial ceremonies have been conducted at the State Capitol each year by PORAC. Initially, they were conducted in the foyer of the east wing of the Capitol, but they were soon moved to a large committee room and eventually the Senate chambers. The surviving family, department administration and association officers for each honoree are invited, along with the governor and other dignitaries. A luncheon for all the families and guests is hosted by PORAC each year. Different associations, such as the California Association of Highway Patrol Officers, have assisted in the ceremonies, since PORAC has always been obedient to the direction of the resolution “That such a monument be a perpetual memorial to all California Peace Officers.”

Watch for Part 2 of this article, covering the history of the current memorial, in the June issue.

About the Author

An expert on the history of PORAC, Rick Baratta has been a life member since 1956 and has served in many capacities, including as General Manager and PORAC LE News Editor from 1976 to 1989.

The Meaning of the Memorial

In 1987, Rick Baratta reflected on the memorial’s origins and significance in a speech at the annual memorial ceremony:

In the early ’70s we were first developing the idea of the Peace Officers’ Memorial. We had searched assiduously for a concept or a theme that would describe and reflect the importance of what we were attempting: recognition for those of us who had been killed enforcing the people’s law. Finally we recalled an incident in history that occurred over 2,000 years ago.

It was in a valley called Lacedaemon, and the people called themselves Lacedaemonians; Greece knew them as Spartans, the scattered. The Spartans had created a military society and a moral code that exalted bravery: to be good was to be strong and brave, to die in battle was the highest honor, to survive defeat was a disgrace and to surrender was unheard of, just as today cowardice is unheard of among peace officers. “Return with your shield or on it” was the Spartan mother’s farewell to her soldier son. Flight with the heavy shield was impossible.

In 480 BC, Persia invaded the Greek city-states with an army of well over a million. King Leonidas led 300 Spartans and several thousand other Greeks against the invading army. He had taken only fathers so that no family line should die out.

The Greek army halted the Persians at the Pass of Thermopylae and delayed them until nearly surrounded. Leonidas sent the other Greeks away to save them and with the remaining Spartans held the pass, outnumbered 3,000 to one. Ten days after the battle began, the last Spartan fell.

They were entombed there and over the tomb was placed the most famous Greek epitaph: “Go, stranger, and tell the Lacedaemonians that we lie here in obedience to their laws.” This epitaph was also placed on the California Peace Officers’ Memorial as a reminder to the makers of the people’s law that someone has to enforce the law and that task has been given to the peace officer.