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Alexandria Police Department unveils suicide memorial

Hundreds solemnly gathered outside Police Headquarters this morning to dedicate the Alexandria Police Department Suicide Memorial.

The names of officers Jason Kline, who died in 2004, and his best friend, Steven Pagach IV, who died in 2011, are etched in the memorial.

The memorial is reportedly the second in the United States to honor police officers who have died by suicide, after the Boston Police Officer Suicide Memorial Wall. It is next to the APD memorial for officers who died in the line of duty.

APD Lieutenant Tara May came up with the idea after graduating from the National FBI Academy last year.

“Jason and Steven’s loss was devastating to the department,” May said. “My fear is, you know, do we have more of Jason and Steven’s we don’t know about walking around the hallways. I’m hoping that this will remind people that there is hope, and there’s help when it’s needed.”

Police Chief Don Hayes is also a pastor and gave the invocation.

“We pray that this memorial will always be a reminder and a remembrance to those who are now wearing this uniform that care,” Hayes said. “And that we don’t want to see anybody else’s name on this memorial.”

Retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, an APD veteran, is the chair of the chairman of the board of Ivy Hill Cemetery, which donated the granite slabs used in the memorial.

“It recognizes these two men for their sacrifices in a respectful and dignified way,” Lawhorne said. “This dancing slate of granite will forever whisper the names of Jason and Steve, that they are not forgotten.”

Retired Police Chief David Baker donated the funds for the inscription on the memorial.

“We miss their enormous presence in our lives,” Baker said of Kline and Pagach. “We miss their contributions and commitment to public safety and we salute their excellence in bravery in service to others. Make no mistake, they are and will always be our brothers and blue.”

Above the officers’ names, the memorial states: “In darkness, there is light. In honor and memory of the officers we have lost to suicide. Thank you for your dedication and service.”

Retired Deputy Chief Hassan Aden said that APD must confront the stigma of mental health in policing.

“Policing is a profession that demands unwavering dedication, sacrifice and resilience,” Aden said. “Every day officers put on their uniforms, not knowing what challenges they will face what dangers they will encounter, or how deeply those experiences will impact their lives. The weight of the badge is not just physical, it’s emotional, and mental.”

May said the department has work to do to address mental health challenges of its officers.

“In our collective bargaining negotiations, we asked for an improvement in the department’s mental health programs,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

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