Many details go into the planning of Tuesday's memorial service for the four Lakewood police officers, which is expected to attract some 20,000 mourners.
LAKEWOOD, Pierce County — Among the many details that need to be just right for Tuesday’s memorial service is the matter of exactly how the U.S. flags should be folded.
There will be four flags, one draped over each of the caskets of the four slain Lakewood police officers, and the flags will be presented to their families.
“It takes a lot of practice to learn how to fold them so they don’t bleed,” said Frank Kampsen, 63, a retired Seattle police detective who in the past four decades has attended some 50 memorial services for officers.
“The flags are longer than usual so they can drape over the casket,” Kampsen said. “It’s considered bad protocol if there is red showing” once they are folded.
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Kampsen has been in honor guards, knows the protocol and is director of the Behind the Badge Foundation, which helps families of police officers killed or catastrophically injured in the line of duty.
Then there is the matter of whether to have a 21-gun salute.
“We decided some families wouldn’t want to hear the sound of a rifle,” Kampsen said.
Instead, a large brass bell hung on a tripod will be brought out, and there will be a 21-bell salute.
The region went into shock over the slayings of Lakewood police Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Gregory Richards and Ronnie Owens, gunned down by Maurice Clemmons on Nov. 29 at a Pierce County coffee shop.
That was on a Sunday morning.
By 10 a.m. the next day, the planning for Tuesday’s memorial at the Tacoma Dome — expected to attract some 20,000 mourners — had begun.
That includes 1,000 to 2,000 officers from out of state, including an estimated 600 from British Columbia, and 100 each from Chicago and New York. Some are driving their police vehicles; many others are flying in. The officers are receiving special lodging rates at local motels.
It’s expected to be the biggest such memorial in state history, said Kampsen, eclipsing the 7,500 or so who attended the Nov. 6 memorial for slain Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton, and the 10,000-some who attended a memorial for four Seattle firefighters who died in the 1995 Pang International Foods arson.
Somebody had to take care of the hundreds of details for the memorial, and the relatively small Lakewood Police Department, serving a community of 60,000, was overwhelmed.
So Tom Miner, a Pierce County Incident Management Team leader, got the call.
The team had been formed to help deal with such crises as wildfires. Those same skills can be used to plan a large public event.
It would be expected an event attracting so many people — with a car procession that will travel eight to 10 miles, with sharpshooters and SWAT teams assigned to security at the Dome — would take weeks of preparation.
For the Lakewood officers, it was completed in 3 ½ days.
Their fellow officers from numerous jurisdictions showed up to work in a meeting room at the Lakewood police station. More than 50 of them worked at folding tables, typing away at laptops and seemingly glued to their cellphones.
Finances were not a problem. Use of the Tacoma Dome was free. UPS Stores printed 25,000 programs for free. Various shops brought in free food, coffee and bottles of water for the officers working at the command center.
The actual costs so far have been less than $20,000, with various police guilds and nonprofits covering the expenses.
You do this, you do that, Miner told the cops working the memorial service, and they went to work.
Details included having Lakewood police dispatchers make a recording with the radio call letters of each of the slain officers.
Just like the final roll call at a military funeral, in which a soldier’s name is called out three times to an obvious no response, this funeral will have a final radio call.
Kampsen said the recording will end with the dispatcher saying the call letters for the slain officer, ending with, “Out of service. Gone but not forgotten.”
For Kampsen, that likely will be the most emotional part of the service. It will affect him.
Fifty cop funerals.
“These memorial services never get easier,” he said.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org