Police funerals: History of "full honors" ritualsby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio,
Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Hundreds of police officers and other law enforcement attend the service when one of their colleagues is killed, and the full-day ceremony includes many rituals.
"It brings a closure to the situation," said Jim Crawford of the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association. "When officers lose their life ... it has quite an emotional impact on officers. It's kind of like losing a member of the family."
The memorial association's Honor Guard, made up of 36 law enforcement officers from around Minnesota, will perform most of the rituals.
The rituals at a law enforcement officer's burial include a three-volley rifle salute and the playing of "Taps," both of which have been around since the Civil War.
A pipe band and flag bearers are on hand, and officers officially retire the officer's squad number.
The retirement of the number usually comes after a "last call" out to the officer, said Kevin Torgerson, an Olmsted County Sheriff's deputy and member of the Honor Guard.
"The last call on the radio signifies the attempt to get a hold of [the officer] ... and he doesn't answer," Torgerson said. "And we go into that final phase that his number will be retired and will no longer be used on the radio."
The American flag draping an officer's coffin is folded before final burial and given to his or her family.
Torgerson said the roots of the triangular fold of the flag date back centuries.
"It's folded that way because it represents the cockade -- the hat that was worn by Revolutionary War soldiers. It'll be carried like that and it is commonly folded that way," he said.
The trip from the funeral to the cemetery is also special. Hundreds of police vehicles escort the officer's coffin through city streets.
(MPR reporter Madeleine Baran contributed to this report.)
Tim Nelson is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.