UPDATE: Pinellas Sheriff's Office wants to build new memorial in honor of fallen officers
(UPDATE on Feb. 29: The Pinellas Sheriff's Office is only seeking input from vendors on its law enforcement memorial project. An earlier version of this post was incorrect on that point.)
Every year, law enforcement officials in Pinellas gather outside the Sheriff's Office to honor the county's 25 officers killed in the line of duty.
But the space where the ceremony takes place is “wholly inadequate,” Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said this week, equating the small plaque currently displayed on the ground to a headstone.
“For what it represents, it's even a little embarrassing,” he added.
The Sheriff's Office is now looking into the possibility of building a new memorial – including granite features and a fire torch – that would stand in front of the agency's new administration building at 10750 Ulmerton Road.
The agency is seeking input from vendors for the project, Gualtieri said. The deadline is Monday.
According to documents, here are some highlights of the proposed design:
The existing curved concrete barrier wall at the building entrance will be redesigned as a black granite memorial wall.
A “thin blue line” – a common symbol for law enforcement unity – will run across the wall “with a possible light feature.”
The most striking aspect would be a vertical 14-foot monument that would be topped with a gas torch to symbolize an “eternal flame.”
Bronze statues of two Honor Guard deputies and a kneeling deputy in front of a child will stand within the memorial.
Gualtieri acknowledged the design is “probably pie in the sky,” and the project would likely scale down once costs are calculated, which could start at tens of thousands of dollars. The goal, he said, is to avoid using taxpayer money and only rely on forfeiture and donation funds.
Other departments across Tampa Bay have erected similar monuments in honor of fallen officers. The Tampa Police Department has one at its headquarters on Franklin Street that pays homage to its 31 fallen officers. In 2012, a memorial engraved with the names of St. Petersburg's 15 fallen officers was unveiled in Demens Landing. The Pinellas Sheriff's Office has never lost a deputy in the line of duty.
“It's very appropriate that we invest in recognizing all of these officers that have lost their lives,” Gualtieri said. “But that's extensively balanced against: can we afford it?”