All too often we have to mourn the death of a hero. Violence is a reality that we cannot shy away from, and unfortunately, the situation is becoming ever more unstable. Thank God for those who are willing to stand up and protect others: our police officers. These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day to maintain law and safety for American citizens. And when one falls, the whole country grieves. At times like these, you may be searching for answers or some way to give solace to those most affected by the tragedy. What can you do?
Set up a memorial
You have a wide variety of options when it comes to memorializing an officer. You can start as simple as printing out and framing a small picture to keep on your desk to remember the officer's sacrifice. Or, you can be more elaborate and get others involved. You may be able to get permission to set up a memorial in a public place, such as City Hall or the local library, and if so you may later find that other mourners have added their own tributes. If you cannot get permission or it would take too long to do so, your front yard is just as fine a place. You can invite your neighbors to contribute their own additions such as flowers and notes. This can be a wonderful way to bring a community together in the face of tragedy.
If you set up the memorial outdoors, be aware of the weather. Outdoor displays tend to be comprised of flowers, painted signs and messages, candles, and other semi-weatherproof elements. Indoor memorials focus more heavily on photographs and artwork and are more permanent because all you need is wall space. As the premier, law enforcement artist in the USA, Dick Kramer's artwork is perfect for inclusion in such a memorial. Browse the Police/SWAT Art Gallery for an appropriate print, and remember that for $20 you can request a personal message to be added. You could even commission a portrait of the fallen hero.
The purpose of a memorial is to bring hope and to show your support for law enforcement. Remember, the most important thing is your sincerity and respect for the fallen officer.
Donate in the officer's name to a worthy cause
If you want to pay tribute to the officer's memory in a more down-to-earth or practical way, make a donation to a good cause. Donate directly to law enforcement, or to a charity you believe the officer would have wanted to support. Depending on where you choose to donate, you could donate money, food, clothing, or even donate your time by volunteering.
If you want to donate directly to law enforcement, there are many resources online to help you find where to make your donation. In some cases, this depends on your municipality. If you would like to donate to a national organization, consider the Officer Down Memorial Page (details at link) or the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund among others.
Help the officer's family
Alternatively, you can choose to honor the fallen hero by making a donation directly to the officer's family instead. This is a more direct and personal way to help, as by doing so you are lending a hand directly to their loved ones. Ease of contacting the family will vary on a case by case basis; some will have a published address where they can be reached, and others will prefer to grieve privately. Respect their decision: look for a statement on the officer's obituary regarding the family's wishes, and adhere to them.
Sadly, there are thieves out there who would scam well-meaning citizens into donating to the wrong place in order to line their own pockets. Always check official announcements in order to be sure your donation will reach the right people, and never send money without checking first.
There are other ways to honor an officer whose watch has ended in tragedy. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is to live your life honestly and honorably, show respect and appreciation for law enforcement, and be a good and proud citizen. Your choice of how to show your respect to the fallen may change depending on whether the officer was local to you or in another state. But no matter what, you can always live well to respect those who serve.