Montgomery County's fallen guardians will get recognition for giving their lives for their fellow citizens.Following in Philadelphia's footsteps, the county will shortly begin recognizing its law enforcement officers who were killed or died while on duty with bronze plaques, according to District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. Castor explained that he had witnessed several of the Philadelphia plaque dedications and came away with the idea that this would be fitting for Montgomery County "heroes" while also being important to the community.
"There is a general lack of respect for law enforcement that I have seen growing over the years," said Castor. "I think that people don't realize how much sacrifice goes into being in law enforcement and sometimes that sacrifice involves death.
"Sometimes the public takes these guys for granted and don't realize what they do," added Castor.
There are 26 Montgomery County law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty ' 14 were killed and 12 died while on duty.
The first officer who is slated to be honored with a plaque will be Upper Dublin police Sgt. James R. Miller. Miller, a 28-year veteran of the police force, died at the age of 54 in a one-vehicle accident on April 20, 2004, while responding to a call. Miller was ejected from his patrol vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The plaque commemorating him, which will be between 18 and 24 inches and mounted on concrete, will be placed on Dreshertown Road in the approximate location of the accident.
The fallen officers who will be the first honored under the program are those who most recently died or were killed in action. That is because many of their family members are still in the area, according to Castor.
There will be a ceremony at the unveiling of each memorial that will include the officer's family, members of the law enforcement community, local officials and even bagpipers and a bugler, Castor said.
"We wanted something nice for the families," he explained, adding that, like Philadelphia, he would like to present the family with a pillow on which the wording of the plaque would be embroidered.
Other fallen officers among the first to be honored will include Norristown police officer Thomas M. Barone, who was shot and killed on Oct. 11, 1992 when he responded to a domestic violence call; FBI Agent Charles Reed, who worked out of the Lansdale office and was shot and killed on March 22, 1996; and Lower Merion officer Edward M. Setzer, who was shot and killed on Sept. 30, 1988.
Castor said local police and the Fraternal Order of Police are stepping up as sponsors for the program.
Anyone else interested in financially supporting the program can contact the district attorney at his office. The D.A.'s office will pick up the remaining tab for the program, Castor said.