Exactly 15 minutes and 48 seconds had passed since the 5K race began, and none of the onlookers expected to see a runner finish for at least another five minutes.
But Ryan Raybould appeared in the distance, prompting the crowd to pull out cameras and cheer for a man most of the bystanders didn’t even know. They patted Rebould’s back and gave him high-fives as he became the first to cross the finish line.
The moment captured the spirit of the Police Week 5K that took place Saturday morning, when about 1,800 officers ran to raise awareness of the sacrifices that police make every day.
Hosted by the Officer Down Memorial Page, a website that commemorates the lives of fallen officers, the event was part of National Police Week and honored the 105 line-of-duty deaths across the nation this past year.
Seven officers from the Local 294 branch of the International Union of Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, which represents GW police officers, participated in the event. Eight other Local 294 officers who were originally slated to run were called to duty the day of the race, but the remaining seven ran to raise awareness of the dangers that not only municipal police but also university officers face.
Out of the 105 officers across the country who died last year, two were members of campus police forces.
“I think people kind of forget sometimes, because we’re such a unique niche of law enforcement, that we also have officers that give their lives to save others,” said Reed Jones, a University Police Department officer and the financial secretary for the SPFPA Local 294 unit. “This is a really great time to reflect and remember how lucky we are and how dangerous the job can be.”
Each runner donned a sign with the name of one of the 105 officers who died in the line of duty in 2013. On the Officer Down Memorial Page website, individual biographies mention little about an officer’s death and instead focus on his or her career in law enforcement and acts of heroism.
“It’s not so much about how they died. It’s about how they lived. So that’s really important to remember when you’re out here,” Jones said.
Of the 92 registered teams, many came from departments outside of D.C., traveling to the race from as far as Texas and California. The 500 runners who couldn’t make it to D.C. became “virtual” contributors, running the 5K from their hometowns and submitting photos to the event’s Facebook page.
“It’s in memory of them. It’s to remember them and their families,” said UPD officer and Local 294 president Jeffrey Kerch.
The race raised more than $30,000 to support programs like the Survivor Benefits Database, which works with the U.S. Department of Justice to provide death and education benefits to the families of law enforcement officers who have died, as well as disability benefits to officers injured in the line of duty.
Police Week will culminate in a memorial service on May 15, a date that President John F. Kennedy designated as Peace Officers Memorial Day in 1962.