I didn't used to go to Police Week. There was no excuse. I live within a comfortable driving distance but am not a "city" person. My wife never wanted to go; she was sure that once she visited the National Law Enforcement Memorial then fate would conspire to put my name on it. I'd been an officer for over 20 years before I went the first time... but I haven't missed a year since. Every year it's a different experience but the one constant is the brotherhood. Somehow, DC feels a LOT safer when you see a fellow law enforcement professional everywhere you turn.
For me this year, Monday the 13th of May was a full and busy day. I am blessed to (mostly) work from home and I had plenty to get done in the office before I went up to the LE Memorial so I was up at 0500 and enjoying my first cup of coffee. By 0900 I'd had breakfast and gotten the office stuff done. A quick shower and I began my travel into Washington DC. By noon I was at the LE Memorial and I'd gotten a text message from my Chief of Police asking (which means "do it") me to meet him at Tent City.
For those of you who might not know, "Tent City" is a collection of vendors, manufacturers and other supporters for the DC FOP. It's not HUGE but it's not small and all of the vendor tents (hence the name) are situated around the large middle main tent: which houses a bar that might fill a small warehouse. You can get beer or soda and, depending on how Mother Nature is behaving, enjoy the shade or get out of the rain. The DC FOP runs a food stand area and there are usually 100 or more vendors on hand. It's a very social atmosphere where you can meet fellow officers from as far away as Sidney, Australia - like I did this year.
I took the shuttle bus over to Tent City from in front of the DC FOP HQ (around the corner from the LE Memorial) and found my Chief waiting for me just inside the main gate. It was a nice surprise to find out that he didn't need anything from me and there were no fires to be put out; he simply wanted to say hi, encourage me to enjoy the day and chat for a few minutes. He had family members with him and was "on duty" but happy to not be in the office.
When he left I met a brother officer / friend who had come down from Pennsylvania for Police Week. We strolled around Tent City, got some lunch, did some shopping (stuff for my wife and son) and then headed back over to the Memorial. When we got off the shuttle bus, once again near the DC FOP HQ, we walked back to the LE Memorial with a slight side trip to take some pictures of "historical" cruisers that had come in from all over the country. (You can see all the photos on our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/officercom).
I'm proud to say this was the fifth year that Officer.com has live streamed the Candlelight Vigil via the Internet so that the experience can still be shared, even by those who can't make the trip into DC for whatever reason. I checked in with our tech guru at the Memorial and then went in search of dinner. I knew that once it got busy around seven o'clock I wouldn't get another chance to eat or drink anything until well after the Vigil ended. So, after checking that the tech guy was good to go, I headed over to a pub called the Irish Channel. Along the way I met some officers from Montreal, Canada and was entertained by their jokes about patrolling on moose-back.
At the Irish Channel I met up with a friend of mine and his wife and we had some "quick eats" - salad, chicken tenders, etc. We didn't have any salt or pepper on our table and the server didn't slow down enough for me to ask her for some (that was Victoria, originally from Ireland), so I stepped over to the next table where I saw they had extras. At THAT table I met Lynette from Harrisonburg, VA, who had an accent that sounded more like Alabama than VA, and who put salt in her beer even though she didn't look old enough to drink. After jokingly teasing her for a few moments I managed to secure the salt and pepper shakers and escape with my life (few things are as dangerous as an angered southern belle, but all the teasing was good natured fun so I didn't lose any flesh or body parts as I escaped). In all honesty, no one was angry and everyone was laughing - and ten minutes before we had been total strangers. Police Week is cool like that.