It’s National Peace Officer Memorial Day

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LINCOLN – Today is National Peace Officer Memorial Day, with flags across the country flying at half-staff until sunset.

Special observances are usually held locally and nationally, but most have been cancelled this year by the coronavirus pandemic.

The day caps National Police Week, with both paying tribute to the local, state, and federal peace officers who have died or been disabled in the line of duty. It’s sponsored by the National Fraternal Order of Police

Nebraska Gov Pete Ricketts, who issued a proclamation for the day and week, says it’s a time to remember the men and women in law enforcement who’ve lost their lives while on the job.

One of those is Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Jerry Smith, who died in an on-duty traffic accident in the Panhandle last June 20. Smith was patrolling Highway 26 in Morrill County about 7:45 in the morning when an oncoming driver crossed the centerline and hit Smith’s cruiser head-on. Both men died in the crash.

Colonel John Bolduc, superintendent of the State Patrol, says Smith would normally be honored today at the National Peace Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, and at the Nebraska memorial at the Patrol training academy in Grand Island, but those plans also fell victim to COVID-19.

Colonel Bolduc says even without the ceremonies, Smith’s name is now included on both the state and national Peace Officer Memorials. The Fraternal Order of Police says 185 officers gave their lives in the line of duty last year.