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LAPD officers lobby for police 'purple heart' awards

February 18, 2009 |  7:25 am

It's been rejected several times over the last two decades, but the Los Angeles Police Protective League again is vigorously lobbying city officials to honor fallen officers with police "purple heart" medals.

Purple hearts have been a military tradition for more than 200 years, and the police union argues that awarding them sends an important message to the rank and file.

“It will speak volumes about the city’s concern for the welfare and safety of police officers, in addition to the city’s appreciation for the extraordinary sacrifices made by officers and their families,” union President Paul Weber said.

Names under consideration for the LAPD award include "purple heart," "purple shield" and "blue heart."

The proposal has been rejected in the past because opponents said the awards were too costly and that by highlighting injuries and deaths, the purple hearts could negatively affect police recruiting. One internal LAPD report deemed "an award for injuries sustained in the line of duty serves little or no useful purpose."

But Police Commissioner Alan Skobin, who floated the revised proposal, said those arguments don't hold water because the department already has a commendations board that issues hundreds of citations every year.

Skobin's proposal would also include giving the purple hearts to the families of officers killed in the line of duty. He said he favors giving the medals to families of officers killed before creation of the award.

"This is the least we could do for someone who literally takes a bullet or suffers other injuries for the people of Los Angeles," Skobin said. "Grieving families of the deceased officers are told that the sacrifices made by them and their deceased loved one will never be forgotten. This puts meaning to the words and demonstrates appreciation for their sacrifice won't diminish with time."

Other law enforcement agencies with similar awards include Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento. In 1995, then-New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton created the "purple shield" program in New York.

-- Andrew Blankstein