MILWAUKEE -- A new interactive memorial honoring 65 fallen Milwaukee police officers is nearing completion in the Milwaukee Police and Fire Academy. The new display, featuring a kiosk and personalized videos, was constructed to add more room and update an already-existing decades-old display.
On Wednesday, Feb. 26, a police official said they're “close” to their $100,000 goal needed to complete the display by mid-May. The previous memorial’s wooden frame will serve as the foundation for the new memorial -- complete with a marble frame, bronze plaques, and aluminum backing. A kiosk nearby will allow visitors to click on a respective officer and view their video profile.
“Our old wall was just pictures,” said Milwaukee Police Chaplain George Papachristou. “There was no story behind how that incident occurred, and also nothing about the personal side of things; who were they as a person beyond a Milwaukee police officer.”
When Officers Charles Irvine Jr., Michael Michalski, and Matthew Rittner passed away in 2018 and 2019, the memorial was not large enough to accommodate their plaques at the time. In September the Milwaukee Police Historical Society began raising money for the new display.
“You can touch the officer’s picture and get his story from living family members -- children, wives, or relatives, or partners that have worked with that officer,” said Steve Basting, president of the Milwaukee Police Historical Society.
The memorial was originally constructed in 1983, updated in 1989, and sits near the front office at the building on Teutonia Avenue near Mill Road -- a place where recruits learn to become officers, and current officers undergo training and education multiple times each year.
“It’s a very stark reminder to them of what they’re entering into,” said Papachristou. “The field of police work can be very dangerous.”
Every contractor involved in the new display either donated their services or offered discounted prices, according to Basting.
All 65 fallen officers in Milwaukee Police Department history are men. The project, including 12 video profiles, is expected to be complete by mid-May before National Police Week in Washington, D.C. The week honors all fallen officers who died in 2019, including MPD’s Officer Matthew Rittner and Racine Police Officer John Hetland. Donations are still being accepted HERE.