Outside police headquarters in downtown Kansas City on Thursday, 119 American flags lined the flower bed out front.
Each flag represented one Kansas City police officer killed in the line of duty — the first in 1881 and the last in 2001.
Kansas City police honored the officers at its annual memorial service on Locust Street.
“We pray that the way that they lived and the way that they served will not fade from our memories,” said the Rev. Dennis Dewey in the opening prayer. “We will always have grateful hearts and appreciate the ways they served us.”
He prayed for the family members and friends who still grieve the loss of the fallen officers as well as for the safety of the police officers currently serving, so that no more names are added to the memorial.
Acting Chief David Zimmerman said that many of the officers found meaning and purpose the day they became police officers.
“We also became part of a larger family consisting of those who also decided to dedicate their lives to others,” he said. “With this career choice, many of us have found friendship and personal relationships that will stand the test of time.”
They have also faced pain and hardship when an officer has died in the line of duty.
Patty Robinson, sister of fallen police Sgt. James Leach, spoke about learning of her brother’s death 25 years ago.
The 38-year-old Leach was the 113th Kansas City police officer to die in the line of duty. He was enforcing traffic regulations in Westport when a drunken driver barreled through the barricades, killing him and 21-year-old David Biggers.
“I no longer drive by the Metro Patrol Station on my way to work and look in the parking lot for his car,” Robinson said.
“I don’t listen for his radio number on the police scanner anymore. Now I just look at the painting of him in my living room every day and wonder what great things he would be doing now.”
During Thursday’s memorial service, Kansas City police Maj. Donna Greenwell read the names of the 119 officers who had been killed in the line of duty.
The service also included a 21-gun salute as well as a flyover by a police headquarters.