Retired officer hoped space for new names on police memorial would not be needed

The expansion underway at the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial brings retired Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Joe Mannion no joy.

“I’m sure back in 1993, they thought, ‘We have all this space, we’ll never run out,’” says Mannion, president of the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society. “But as the years go on, an officer’s life is put in more danger than it was in the past.”

The memorial was established in 1985 by a handful of area police officers after the funeral of a fellow officer who was killed in the line of duty. Grieving the loss, they made a promise to never abandon the families of fallen officers or let the community forget their service. The memorial was dedicated on May 14, 1993, at the corner of West 3rd Street and Lakeside Avenue in downtown Cleveland.

“It’s for the survivors and the family,” Mannion says. “Everybody thinks the survivors are just the family of the fallen officer. But there are partners who have lived through the tragedies who are also survivors, the police officers who they worked with and who were with the fallen officers the day they were killed. The memorial is a place where they know they can come and nobody is going to bother them.”

Constructed of black polished granite, the structure comprises almost 1,000 square feet of space and features a curved wall that slopes gently from 2 feet high upward to 6 foot semi-surrounding pillars. The memorial wall bears the inscription: The Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial. The pillars inside the curved wall measure 7 feet wide, 12 feet high and 2 feet thick. Each bears the name, law enforcement agency and the “end of watch” date of each of the officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial honors officers killed in the line of duty from Lake, Geauga, Medina, Lorain, Cuyahoga and northern Summit counties.

A tragic need
The need for additional space at the memorial became evident in the last couple years. There are currently 186 names listed, which includes two officers who lost their lives in the line of duty last year. Before the expansion, there was room for 195 names. That left room for only nine new names.

“We’re afraid to put these nine on there and then if something were to happen, we would have nowhere to put the new fallen officer,” Mannion says.

Work was delayed a bit as the GCPOMS waited to see if Cuyahoga County was going to proceed with a parking garage on the north side of the memorial. The county ultimately decided not to go forward with the project and work got underway in late February. The expansion will provide space for 120 additional names.
“Hopefully we’ll never run out again,” Mannion says.

‘I think I’m coming home every night’
Mannion always wanted to be a police officer.

“I took tests everywhere, Macedonia, Maple Heights, Lyndhurst — all the suburbs,” Mannion says. “Someone said, ‘Why don’t you take the Highway Patrol test? I took it. The same day I took the test, I was supposed to be sworn in in Macedonia, but I decided to stay with the state. It was an interesting career.”

Mannion says he never thought about the possibility of something happening to him on the job.

“I think I’m coming home every night,” says Mannion, explaning his mindset when he was on duty. “I’m just thankful. There are a lot of us out there that have come home every night and we’re able to retire from a career and we’re honored to do it. There is something in your blood. When a situation occurred, you reacted and then after everything is over and the situation had calmed down, there were times where you would say, ‘Man, why did I do that? It could have ended up worse. Thank God, it didn’t.’”

Creating awareness
National Police Week is held every year during the third week of May. A service is held in which survivors of fallen officers are invited to come, if they’re up to it.

“Every year different people come from the group of survivors,” Mannion says. “For some, it takes them a while to move forward in their grieving and come to the memorial. Often, once they get there, they are so taken in that they are then there every year.”

Mannion is hopeful that the memorial will continue to create awareness in the community about the fragility of life and the dangers that officers face on the job every day.
“We try to create more public awareness with officers and their families,” he says. “Sometimes they feel left out, like people don’t want to approach them because they think, ‘What can I say to them?’ If you ask them about their story, survivors just open up. It helps them with their healing process by talking about it. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society started a paver project to help raise money to cover cost of the memorial expansion. For complete details about the GCPOMS “Each Paver Remembers” campaign, including sponsor benefits and recognition, or to purchase a paver, visit:
www.eachpaverremembers.com