ST. MARYS — It’s National Police Week.
A week of honoring established in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy to honor police officers.
As society and law enforcement’s role in it has been continually in flux since then, around 1982 it became an event honoring the fallen, as well as those who served and those still in active duty.
On Tuesday morning, the Agape Assembly of God church in St. Marys was filled with over two dozen active and retired police officers and their families.
They gathered to celebrate Police Week, which this year spans from May 13-19.
According to Phil Hoh, president of the Bucktail Lodge FOP, there were 135 law enforcement fatalities nationally in 2017.
Locally, three officers were honored Tuesday for losing their lives in the line of duty.
Those included: Johnsonburg police Officer Carl Whippo, a 14 year veteran officer, who was shot at his desk in 1984; Sgt. David Distrola, a Bradford Borough Police officer, who died in 1989 when he fell off a bridge while attempting to get out of the way of car that was skidding on the ice; and Officer Steven German, of Kane Borough Police Department, who died in 1999, when he made a routine traffic stop and the 18-year-old pulled out a pistol and shot him in the chest.
While the dead were honored, so were the living.
“We live in challenging times for law enforcement. There seems to be a lawlessness that is prevalent in our society. Individuals in society like to speak of their rights and privileges as opposed to their obligations and responsibilities,” said Elk County District Attorney Shawn McMahon.
He added that social media has changed personal relationships, adding that there is a mental and emotional coping crisis in society, which law enforcement has become tasked with contending with.
“We have a tendency as a society to want to address the symptoms instead of the problems. And there is a cynicism that certainly effects us. But despite the challenges that we’re confronted with, I’m optimistic as the District Attorney that the good people still outnumber the bad, that there are strong families in our county, that our school are strong and play an important role in maintaining law and order in our society,” McMahon said.