The idea for the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial was born at the bar at the CPPA Hall, after the funeral of Cleveland Police Officer Stephan Kovach. The bar was crowded with police officers from all around the Greater Cleveland area, the State of Ohio and surrounding states. Two Cleveland Police Officers, Charles “Chas” Lane and Tom Armelli realized that the only time such a large and diverse group of police officers are together like that was at the funeral of another police officer – hardly a time to celebrate or enjoy.
In the weeks following the funeral, Lane and Armelli discussed and planned a way to get police officers and other members of the law enforcement profession together to celebrate their common calling and to honor those who have died in the line of duty.
It was decided that several things should happen. They would build a memorial to honor those police officers that have died in the line of duty, not only Cleveland police officers but police officers from all around the Greater Cleveland area. Lane and Armelli had both served of several suburban police departments before finding a home as members of the Cleveland Police department. To celebrate their profession and camaraderie it was decided to organize a parade on Peace Officers Memorial Day during National Police Week. President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15th of each year to be Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week that May 15th falls in to be National Police Week.
The first parade organized by the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society was held in 1986 and attended by hundreds of police officers, many of whom had traveled from other states. The Pipes & Drums of the Chicago Police Department participated that very first year and, to offer them some Cleveland hospitality, a party in their honor was held at the CPPA Hall the evening after the parade. The Band performed at the party, which went on into the night and the Tattoo was born.
PO Armelli explained, “With the assistance of Cleveland Police Chief Edward Kovacic we were able to recruit several local businessmen to help us raise money to design and build a police memorial. Sam Miller, Ed Lozik and Tom Ralston lead the drive that raised almost $400,000 to build and pay for the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial.” The Memorial was dedicated on May 14, 1994.
Since 1986, with the exception of the 2020 COVID year, The Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society has held a parade, memorial service and Tattoo on the Friday of National Police Week. This celebration has been attended by thousands of police officers from the Greater Cleveland area, the State of Ohio, all around the United States and the world.
Creating a Living Memorial
The Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society describes the physical memorial as “Dedicated on May 14, 1993, The Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial features the names of each officer who has died in the line of duty from our area, surrounded by a beautifully landscaped garden that invites contemplation.
Located at the corner of West 3rd St. and Lakeside Ave in downtown Cleveland, the Memorial occupies the site of Fort Huntingon, built to defend the city during the War of 1812. It is fitting that it now serves to honor both those who continue to protect, and those who have died protecting our lives and property, especially those from Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and northern Summit counties.
Constructed of black polished granite, the structure comprises almost 1,000 square feet of space, featuring a curved wall that slopes gently from two feet high upward to six feet semi-surrounding pillars. The Memorial wall bears the inscription: The Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial.
The pillars inside the curved wall measure seven feet wide, twelve feet high and two feet thick. Each bears the name, law enforcement agency, and the “end of watch” date of each of the officers who has died in the line of duty. Sadly, one of the pillars has space remaining for those officers who have yet to pay the supreme sacrifice in the never-ending war on crime.
The walkways approaching and encircling the Memorial are lined with commemorative pavers. The GCPOMS offers the public a meaningful way to demonstrate their support of law enforcement and the maintenance of the Memorial by purchasing a personalized brick.