The Orange County Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremonies were first held in 1987 at the Plaza of the Flags in Santa Ana. In 2013, the ceremony was moved to the new Orange County Peace Officers’ Memorial in Tustin. This is a ceremony that honors officers who have fallen in the line of duty in Orange County, formally adds the names of any newly enrolled officers to the Memorial and recognizes the sacrifice of loved ones left behind.
Charged with protecting those they serve, police officers put themselves in harm’s way to enforce the law. Unfortunately, some officers pay the ultimate price, laying down their own life in valiant service of others. We understand that the grief after loss may linger, and such proceedings renew unhappy memories and can cause additional pain. However, it is important that those left behind recognize these officers did not die in vain. We, the people of Orange County, owe a debt to those who have given their lives. We must revisit these unhappy memories each year, on the last Thursday in May, to reflect on their courage and sacrifice, to assure their loss will not be forgotten and to remind survivors they will always be a part of the police community.
What Is the Memorial?
Is it the stone walls and bronze plaques with the fallen officers’ names, located on the grounds of the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Facility? Is it the 9-foot, bronze statues of the male and female officers located on the grounds? Or is it the sense of loss when a community and law enforcement family buries one of its members? It is all of the above.
In the early 1980s the idea originated to build a memorial for fallen officers in Orange County and was supported by the Orange County Chiefs’ and Sheriff’s Association. The fundraising efforts were spearheaded by the Sheriff’s Advisory Council, which is made up of community and business leaders. Their dream was fulfilled with the dedication of the Plaza of the Flags in Santa Ana on December 16, 1986, with the first memorial service held in May 1987.
In 1993, the first signs of damage were documented and the memorial continued to be plagued by structural problems, such as rotting, termites and water seepage. Temporary repairs were made, but continued deterioration, and the use of the monument by the homeless and skateboarders left the future of the Plaza of Flags and Peace Officers’ Memorial in doubt. Following its final ceremony in May of 2012, the monument at the Plaza of the Flags was dismantled and the original bronze plaques of the fallen heroes and donors were removed and incorporated into the new monument.
On December 15, 2011, almost 25 years to the day from the dedication of Plaza of the Flags, groundbreaking took place for a new Peace Officers’ Memorial at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin. Once again, the fundraising efforts were spearheaded by the Orange County Sheriff’s Advisory Council and the project was supported by law enforcement throughout Orange County, including the Orange County Chiefs’ of Police and Sheriff’s Association.
Plaza of Flags in Santa Ana, California (previous site of Orange County Peace Officers Memorial)
Current Peace Officers’ Memorial Dedication
After years of meeting, research and design, and 1 ½ years after groundbreaking, the new Peace Officers’ Memorial in Tustin was dedicated on May 29, 2013. This beautiful memorial includes: walls of honor, history walls, a permanently lit thin blue line, water features, life-size bronze statuary, as well as appropriate areas for rest and reflection.
The two bronze figures represent a male and female officer, and at the feet of these officers’ lies an American flag folded into a triangle on granite base featuring an inscription. Behind the bronze statues, is a stone relief which incorporates artwork from the three original pillars at the Plaza of the Flags and represents the history and evolution of law enforcement, from officers mounted on horseback to helicopter and vehicle patrols.
The stone semicircular walls, which encompass the monument, have 53 bronze plaques representing each of the fallen peace officers, from Robert Squires, Orange County Sheriff’s Department in 1912 to Jon Coutchie, Laguna Beach Police Department in 2013.
The water found throughout the monument and the benches that line the “Walk of Heroes” offer a peaceful and soothing a place to reflect, and were included at the request of families of fallen officers.
The donor walls at the front of the memorial honor those who unselfishly donated to this project and made it a reality. The “Walk of Heroes,” which is located to the right of the donor walls, allow those who wish to buy a personalize brick, commemorating any event, to do so and have it placed in the path. In turn, the sale of these bricks help maintain the monument.
The first Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony began at this location on May 29, 2013 and they have been held on the last Thursday of May every year since.
At the feet of these officers’ lies an American flag folded into a triangle on granite base featuring an inscription:
“THIS FOLDED FLAG
REMINDS US OF
THE MEN AND WOMEN
WHO HAVE MADE
THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS,
PRIVILEGES AND FREEDOMS
WE ENJOY TODAY”
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Sheriff’s Advisory Council
P.O. Box 241, Santa Ana, CA 92702
P.O. Box 241
Santa Ana, CA 92702
Peace Officers Memorial Fund