Why are flags half-staff today, Friday, May 15? Flags are flying half-staff across the nation in honor of Peace Officers Memorial Day. This is part of National Police Week 2020. In addition, flags are flying half-staff in some states in memory of others who have been lost, including those lost to the novel coronavirus.
Today Is Peace Officers Memorial Day
President Donald Trump signed a national proclamation on May 8 for Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week 2020. Peace Officers Memorial Day was first designated in 1962 to fall on May 15 of every year during Police Week. Police Week was from May 10 to May 16, 2020. The White House will also be lighted blue today in honor of law enforcement officers. All governors of states and territories within the U.S. are asked to fly their flags at half-staff today, and Americans are invited to do the same at their homes and businesses.
The proclamation about Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week reads as follows:
On Peace Officers Memorial Day and during Police Week, we commend the brave men and women of our law enforcement community for continually summoning the courage to fulfill their solemn oath to protect and serve. We also pause to remember all those who have lost their lives and who have suffered permanent disabilities defending their communities and the rule of law, including the heroes we have lost this year to the coronavirus.
Throughout our Nation’s history, law enforcement officials have never wavered in the face of crisis or tragedy. During uncertain times, law enforcement officers bravely face challenges and continue to protect the American people. They steadfastly ensure the safety of our communities, providing a much needed sense of security for our citizens, and our country is extremely grateful for their efforts.
My Administration remains committed to ensuring our Nation’s Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement officers have the resources and support they need to perform their duties safely and effectively. Last October, I was proud to sign an Executive Order to establish the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice — the first commission on law enforcement in half a century. This Commission identifies ways to reduce crime while simultaneously bringing law enforcement officers and the communities they serve closer together. We have also worked to expand lifesaving programs like the National Blue Alert Network. Thirty-five States have enacted Blue Alert plans, which provide early warnings to law enforcement agencies, the media, and the public by transmitting Blue Alerts to cell phones, television stations, and other devices. These alerts disseminate information on suspects who pose an imminent and credible threat to the safety of our officers, and this network demonstrates how we can work together to provide proactive programs, innovative resources, and cutting-edge technology to support and advance our law enforcement personnel.
We must continue working toward a time when all people respect and understand the important work that law enforcement officers do. Unfortunately, our law enforcement officers do not always receive the respect they deserve. These brave men and women must operate in an environment where their moral and legal authority is constantly being scrutinized, and they undertake the critical yet difficult task of addressing the actions of those affected by addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. Their ability to work well in the face of these and other challenges is extraordinary, and we have incredible appreciation for their public service and selflessness.
On behalf of our grateful Nation, we proudly recognize the more than 900,000 sworn members of law enforcement for their resolve and dedication in the face of dangerous uncertainty. The thoughts and prayers of our Nation are with them and their families, and we will always owe them our appreciation and support.
By a joint resolution approved October 1, 1962, as amended (Public Law 87-726, 76 Stat. 676), and by section 1 of Public Law 105-225 (36 U.S.C. 136-137), the President has been authorized and requested to designate May 15 of each year as “Peace Officers Memorial Day” and the week in which it falls as “Police Week.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 15, 2020, as Peace Officers Memorial Day and May 10 through May 16, 2020, as Police Week. In honor of our hardworking law enforcement officers, Melania and I will light the White House in blue on May 15, 2020. I call upon all Americans to observe Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I also call on the Governors of the States and Territories and officials of other areas subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day. I further encourage all Americans to display the flag from their homes and businesses on that day.
Although a National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service is typically held today, it had to be canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A statement released on March 18 about the decision reads: “It is with great regret that, for the first time in the event’s history, the Fraternal Order of Police and its Auxiliary will be unable to host the 39 th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Washington, D.C. due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision was a difficult one, but we believe it is the right one… The National FOP and the Memorial Committee will undertake an effort to have a meaningful and respectful media tribute to our fallen heroes on May 15th, National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day.”
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund had an online candlelight vigil on May 13.
States Also Have Half-Staff Proclamations Today
In Alaska, U.S. and state flags are flying half-staff through sunset on May 15 in memory of former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. Mallott died on May 8 in Anchorage, Alaska.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a statement: “The First Lady and myself want to extend our condolences to the Mallott family during this time of great personal loss,” said Governor Dunleavy. “It didn’t matter if it was in the native community, the business sector or public office – Byron was a leader who worked to improve our state for the people of Alaska. Marty and I offer our sincere condolences to the family of former Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott in this time of mourning. Byron had a long history of service to our great state.”
In Connecticut, state and U.S. flags are half staff indefinitely in recognition of all those whose lives were lost or affected by COVID-19. Gov. Ned Lamont said: “This global pandemic is impacting the lives of so many families, friends, and loved ones in Connecticut, and we mourn for those who have been impacted. This is an incredibly trying time and a tragic period in our state’s history. I continue to urge every resident of Connecticut to stay home and practice social distancing as much as possible, because not only may your life depend on it, but it could also impact the lives of others.”
As of May 14, 34,855 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in Connecticut and 3,125 people have died.
Illinois has joined the states who are lowering their flags for the victims of COVID-19. Flags are being flown at half-staff in remembrance of “All who have perished from COVID-19 in the Land of Lincoln,” reads Gov. JB Pritzker’s statement. As of May 14, Illinois had 84,698 cases and 3,792 deaths.
In Massachusetts, flags at soldiers’ home facilities and veteran cemeteries began flying half-staff on April 19 until a date to be determined in respect of veterans and Soldiers’ Home residents who died from COVID-19. The flags will be raised when the governor’s emergency order is concluded for COVID-19.
In Michigan, state and U.S. flags are flying half staff indefinitely, according to a proclamation that went into place on April 10. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had devastating impacts on families across our state. I’m directing flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of those we have lost to this awful virus. The flags lowered will serve to remind us all that every life lost is a story and legacy of a loved one gone too soon. As we continue on, we will carry their memories. My deepest condolences to the families of those whose lives were tragically cut short by COVID-19.”
Residents, local businesses, and others are encouraged to fly their flags at half-staff too. In Michigan, there have been 48,391 confirmed cases as of May 14 and 4,714 deaths.
In New Jersey, all state flags and U.S. flags are being flown at half-staff indefinitely in memory of the people who have lost their lives to the coronavirus outbreak. The proclamation was placed by Gov. Philip D. Murphy on April 3 and is still ongoing. As of May 14, New Jersey had 142,861 cases and 9,727 deaths.
The proclamation for New Jersey reads, in part:
WHEREAS, these individuals were family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors, and include healthcare workers, first responders, and others who gave their lives working bravely and tirelessly on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic; and
WHEREAS, each and every life lost to COVID-19 is a profound tragedy for us all; and
WHEREAS, we sadly know that even despite our aggressive efforts, the number of lives lost will continue to rise dramatically in the coming weeks and months, both here in New Jersey, throughout the United States, and around the world; and
WHEREAS, the prohibition of social gatherings, which is necessary to prevent further spread of the virus and loss of life, prevents funerals from going forward in the manner that they would under normal circumstances; and
WHEREAS, as a result, we cannot properly mourn the loss of individuals who pass away during this time, whether from COVID-19 or other causes, and say the goodbye that each and every one of them deserves; and
WHEREAS, while nothing can fully make up for this cruel reality, lowering the flags to half-staff can symbolize our State’s collective grief and cause us all to remember the awful human toll that this pandemic has inflicted upon this State, our nation, and the world; and
WHEREAS, it is with great sorrow that we mourn the passing of all those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and those who may lose their lives in the future, and extend our deepest sympathy to their families, friends, colleagues, and communities; and
WHEREAS, it is appropriate for us all to keep in our thoughts and prayers all of those who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and are suffering;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, PHILIP D. MURPHY, Governor of the State of New Jersey, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and by the Statutes of this State, do hereby ORDER and DIRECT:
1. The flag of the United States of America and the flag of New Jersey shall be flown at half-staff at all State departments, offices, agencies, and instrumentalities indefinitely, starting on Friday, April 3, 2020, in recognition and mourning of all those who have lost their lives and have been affected by COVID-19.
In New York, all flags on state government buildings will fly at half-staff indefinitely while the state is “on pause” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on April 8. As of May 14, New York had 340,848 cases and 27,290 deaths.
New York’s website reads: “Flags on state government buildings have been directed to be flown at half-staff in honor of those we have lost to COVID-19 and will remain lowered while New York is on PAUSE.”
Cuomo said in a statement: “Every number is a face and we have lost so many people, many of the front-line workers putting themselves at risk to do the essential functions that we all need for society to go on. In honor of those we have lost to the virus, I am directing all flags to be flown at half-mast. And I continue to urge all New Yorkers to be responsible, adhere to all social distancing protocols and remember the life you are risking may not be your own.”
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered that all commonwealth flags on commonwealth facilities, public buildings, and public grounds fly at half staff indefinitely in honor of the victims of the 2019 novel coronavirus. The proclamation was put into place on April 8.
In a statement, Wolf said: “Too many Pennsylvanians have lost their lives to COVID-19, and, unfortunately, many more will die. Already we have lost friends, parents, grandparents, and siblings. We have lost first responders. We have lost community members. Each of these Pennsylvanians is irreplaceable. Each deserves to be honored individually for their contributions to our commonwealth, but this cruel disease will not give us a respite to mourn. This virus prevents us from honoring the dead at traditional gatherings. We cannot have funerals, wakes, or sit shiva. I hope this flag lowering provides some solace to the grieving families and friends. And, I hope it serves as a reminder of the reason for the sacrifices Pennsylvanians are making to help their community survive this crisis.”
All residents of Pennsylvania are invited to lower their flags to half staff also. As of May 14, 62,213 cases of coronavirus were recorded in the state, along with 4,147 deaths.
In Texas, U.S. and state flags are flying half-staff today in the Alamo Colleges District in memory of police Sgt. Lionel Q. Martinez, who is being buried today at 10 a.m. Central and his funeral will be streamed here due to COVID-19 restrictions. Martinez was killed in the line of duty on May 5. Martinez died at the age of 62 when he suffered from a heart attack while responding to an emergency call, his obituary read. He had served in law enforcement for more than 25 years.
Flag Half-Staff Traditions
It’s customary to only display the American flag from sunrise to sunset, unless the flag is well illuminated overnight. In those cases, the flag might be displayed 24 hours a day. A number of holidays call for the U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff every year. In addition, the President of the United States may order a proclamation for the flags to fly half-staff when someone of prominence dies or when there is a national tragedy. State governors may also call for national flags to be flown at half-staff in their state when a present or former government official passes away.
If you’re wondering about the term half-mast vs. half-staff, in the United States half-mast refers to flags being lowered on a ship, while half-staff refers to a pole on a building. However, outside the United States, the more commonly used term is actually half-mast. The terms tend to be used interchangeably in common vernacular.
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