ST. PETERSBURG — The city has lost 15 police officers in the line of duty. Three died in a span of 28 days this year.
The city has no monument to honor its fallen officers, but a group seeking to change that took a big step forward Tuesday morning.
The nonprofit Heroes of the St. Pete Police Inc. announced that it has raised $50,000 to design and build a waterfront memorial to St. Petersburg's fallen officers.
The group hopes to raise the rest of the $150,000 needed by year's end.
"When you tell people there's no monument, they look stumped," said state Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, who sits on the nonprofit's board. "They're like 'You're kidding.'
"The followup is: What can I do to help?"
The nonprofit announced the fundraising at a small ceremony at Demens Landing, the site of the future memorial.
The city donated a slice of Demens Landing for a police monument several years ago. The site sits on the water between the Pier and Albert Whitted Airport.
The group will work with the city's public arts commission to solicit bids from artists and pick a winner. The project's $150,000 budget will pay for designing and building the memorial and 10 years of maintenance. Then the nonprofit will give the monument to the city.
Organizers hope to have the project completed by fall 2012.
The only marker honoring the city's fallen officers is a plaque of engraved names that hangs inside the entrance to police headquarters. The only police monument the city has is a statute for fallen police dogs that sits outside that entrance.
"It's long overdue," said St. Petersburg Detective Mark Marland, president of the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association. "It's a tough economy to raise money in, but it's for a great reason."
Most of the money has come from corporate donors. Kriseman said the group needs more corporate support and also is soliciting public donations.
The charity also announced that it has raised $15,446 for the families of officers who died this year: K-9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officer David Crawford.
Lorraine Yaslowitz, whose husband was killed Jan. 24, was on hand Tuesday to accept a ceremonial check on behalf of the families. The money will be split three ways.