The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is dedicated to officers who were killed in the line of duty. The memorial occupies a whole plaza at the center of Judiciary Square.
In a city that seems to pride itself in having attention-grabbing memorials and massive temple-like buildings, this memorial is unusual in the sense that it is inconspicuously integrated in the environment. It consists of four lion sculptures that grace the entrance to pathways lined with 304 foot-long (92 meter) marble walls that curve around a gracefully designed plaza.
The memorial was dedicated in 1991 and is the work of architect Davis Buckley and sculptors Ray Kaskey and George Carr. Bronze female lions and their cubs symbolize the protective role of law enforcement officers, while the male lions represent the use of force that is often required to enforce the law.
The names of the thousands of officers killed on the job, starting with the first casualty in 1791, are inscribed in the four-foot (1.2 meter) high walls. New names are engraved once every year in May.
The memorial walls enclose a beautiful plaza with an ellipsoidal paving pattern inspired by Michelangelo’s design of the Campidoglio Square in Rome. A medallion in the center shows a shield with a rose, the logo of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The plaza is framed by two semi-circular colonnades. Opposite a pre-existing metro entrance the architect created a remembrance pool of the same shape in order to enhance the symmetry.
Near the memorial is a visitors kiosk which provides brochures and photographic details. A museum is planned just south of the memorial, across E Street, which will provide more info about the history of law enforcement and some of the notable names of both officers and criminals such as the notorious “Billy the Kid”.
The memorial is situated in the middle of Judiciary Square, a large square which has given its name to a whole neighborhood. The neighborhood is home to a number of law courts and governmental office buildings. Some of the most significant of these surround the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
To the south of the memorial, between D and E Streets is the former city hall, now the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. It is a temple-like Greek Revival building, with a large Ionic portico. In front of the grand nineteenth-century structure stands a statue of president Lincoln, erected here in 1868, just three years after he was shot in Ford’s Theatre.
To the north of the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial sits the National Building Museum, a museum dedicated to architecture and urban planning. The museum was originally constructed as an office building for the federal Bureau of Pensions. Hard to believe when you see the interior, with a huge columned hall surrounded by arcades that more resembles an Italian palace rather than an office building.