NEWBURGH, NY – Each year during National Police Week, communities across the U.S. take time to honor the work of the law enforcement community and memorialize officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Each year during this time tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world converge on Washington, D.C. to participate in a number of events that honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The Memorial Service began in 1982 as a gathering in Senate Park of approximately 120 survivors and supporters of law enforcement. Several decades later, the memorial became more commonly known as National Police Week. In 2020, the public memorials previously scheduled to take place in Washington DC have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the City of Newburgh is paying a special tribute this year to the men and women of its Police Department, and memorialize those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Mayor Torrance Harvey stated, “Each year during Police Week we pause and remember those who passed in the line of duty. Together, we acknowledge their bravery and memorialize their service. On this special occasion, the City of Newburgh remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice and applauds the extraordinary work that our Police Department provides 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Newburgh has lost two officers in line of duty incidents. Officer William Morris Robinson ended his watch on Sunday, November 18, 1973, at age 29 following his response to a domestic disturbance. He was fatally struck by a bullet when he took cover behind his patrol car. He had served the department for two years and was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He was survived by his wife and two sons.
Officer Robert Joseph Betanzos ended his watch on Tuesday, July 12, 1977, at age 29 after suffering injuries sustained during a hit-and-run incident that took place on July 4, 1977. He was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic during the 4th of July fireworks display at the city’s waterfront. He had served with the department for just under three years and was survived by his wife, son, and daughter.
City Manager Joseph Donat stated, “During Police Week, it is important for us to remember those who died in the line of duty, and honor their memory. Officer Robinson and Officer Betanzos were dedicated members of our Police Department, and the ultimate sacrifice they made will never be forgotten. The men and women of the Newburgh Police Department are some of the best in law enforcement. Their professionalism, respect and dedication are worthy of praise. While we remember those who laid down their lives to protect us, let us not forget the dedicated work that all of our officers provide every time they put on the uniform.”
The Newburgh City Police Department has changed substantially since its humble beginnings. During the American Revolution, a “Committee of Safety” protected the public within the then-Village of Newburgh. In 1836, the Board of Trustees of the Village of Newburgh passed the legislation needed to appoint a suitable number of Watchmen as may be required for the safety of the Village. By the mid-1800s, Newburgh’s police force consisted of 22 officers including a chief, 2 sergeants, 2 roundsmen, 16 patrolmen and one janitor. On April 6, 1869, the Newburgh Police Department was authorized with regulations by the Common Council. The early police headquarters was on 1st Street between Montgomery and Smith streets. Over the years, the City of Newburgh Police Department has grown and in doing so expanded its operations to protect the life and safety of over 30,000 residents.
The public is encouraged to thank those in law enforcement for their selfless service and a special memorial page will be set up on the City’s social media accounts to memorialize those who gave their lives in the line of duty. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund will also host a virtual Candlelight Vigil on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, at 8:00 pm. The names of fallen officers will be read and the organization looks forward to keeping members of the law enforcement community connected when people cannot be together in person. Attendees are encouraged to register online and light a virtual candle. Details can be found online at https://nleomf.org.