PALM DESERT, Calif. - Local law enforcement agencies took time to honor the lives of officers who paid the ultimate price to protect us. The "Blue Light Ceremony" is put on by Project Blue Light, a national recognition program through Concerns of Police Survivors, Inc. (COPS) to honor all peace officers slain in the line of duty. The tradition started in 1988 when Dolly Craig wrote to COPS that she was putting two blue candles in her living room window during the holiday season to represent fallen officers in her family.
Dozens of blue glow sticks lit up a chilly night in front of the Palm Desert Sheriff's station. Members of several agencies across Riverside county united to remember their brothers and sisters killed in the line of duty. "It's an intensely emotional one as we all celebrate and remember the lives of those that gave up so much to make our communities safer," said Riverside county sheriff Stan Sniff.
The ceremony honors the lives lost and also supports the survivors. Family members of some of the fallen heroes sat in the front row, holding the color of law enforcement and peace. For them, the light represents the life of a loved one cut short. "For those families, it just reminds them that they're always in our thoughts, always in our hearts and we'll never forget them," said Riverside county district attorney Paul Zellerbach.
Patsy Lee lost her husband Riverside County sheriff's deputy Bruce Lee in 2003. A loss which she feels the most this time of year. "It's hard especially during the holidays, so to know that people come out here and that the department remembers you," said Lee.
Since 1895, 61 peace officers in Riverside county have paid the ultimate price. Sixty-one names were read out loud during the ceremony, the last, the most recent addition to the list. Riverside police officer Michael Crain died on February 7, gunned down by ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner. "Just something that should have never happened, especially when it's another police officer who was killing officers, who would have thought that ever would have happened," said Zellerbach.
The blue lights help us remember those who sacrificed everything. They also remind us to support the brave who risk their lives everyday. "It is up to us to remember them, keep them in our thoughts and memories, especially during this holiday season and also to thank them on a daily basis for what they do," said Zellerbach.
Another Blue LIght ceremony is set for December 16 at the Riverside County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon Street.