By Christy Porter, Managing Editor
National Police Week, a collaborative effort of many organizations dedicated to honoring America’s law enforcement community, was observed May 11 – 17.
Memorial services were held on the south lawn of the White House on Sunday, May 15, for fallen members of law enforcement, which included Licking Police Department Sgt. Michael Hood, who was recognized for his law enforcement service.
“It was an honor and privilege to attend the 41st Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Services held in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Sgt. Allgire and myself were able to accompany Sgt. Michael Hood’s family at the service, and honor his service and the ever lasting impact he had on our department and our community,” stated Licking Police Department Chief Pat Burton.
Hood was found deceased August 27, 2018; the death investigation found his death to be of suicide.
Hood began his law enforcement career in 2004, proudly serving 14 years with the City of Licking Police Department. Having three children, Athena, Nicky and Tony, whom he loved dearly, he was acknowledged as being exceptionally good speaking with children as well as doing police department presentations within the community.
Hood is the second law enforcement officer in the nation to be recognized at the National Peace Officers’ Memorial for death due to suicide, and was acknowledged as the “Suffering Silent” during the service.
“It was a great honor to have my dad recognized at the service. I’m glad he’s a part of what I believe is the start of officer suicide awareness and them being recognized when their death is due to suicide,” said Athena Hood.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a large contributor to an officer’s health and well-being, said Chief Burton. “The constant on-alert status that is an everyday occurrence for law enforcement is oftentimes difficult to manage.”
Bethany Pope, the children’s mother, is the Missouri State Representative for Blue Help, an organization that focuses on law enforcement suicide prevention. Voluntary data collections from Blue Help beginning in 2016 show that a yearly average of 175 first responders lives are lost to suicide.
“It is so incredibly important that the kids and I share our story to heighten awareness and help others,” said Pope. “We believe God is going to take our story from one of sadness to one of hope to anyone who needs to hear it. I am so proud of my kids and especially proud of Athena who was chosen to place our flower in the national memorial wreath because of her strength and bravery the morning she found her father.
“The children of a parent who has died of suicide is at a 70 percent increased risk of committing suicide themselves. Thankfully the Licking Police Department and the community of Licking have been so amazing and supportive. Having the LPD at the memorial service meant so much to the kids and I; it validated Mike’s service and showed that we are not alone. Many families do not receive the ongoing support that we’ve received.”
Pope concluded, “Whereas Mike was acknowledged in the service as part of the suffering silent, we as a family refuse to be silent because there is no safety in silence. We choose to speak hope because all life has value.”
What is National Police Week?
In 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls, as National Police Week. Established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962, National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.