Fallen Oak Forest police officer honored at proposed memorial site
Janice Morrissy saw her husband's name added to a police memorial in Springfield last week and will see it added to one in Washington, D.C., this month. But she will have to wait to see his name on a memorial closer to home.
Oak Forest police officer James Morrissy was honored Saturday during a ceremony for fallen officers at the Cermak Woods Forest Preserve in Lyons.
"I thought it was beautiful," Janice Morrissy said of the ceremony. "It was very emotional."
At 62, her husband was killed in the line of duty March 17, 2014, while he was responding to a domestic violence call. Morrissy's squad car was struck by a southbound vehicle near Cicero Avenue and 160th Street. He was pronounced dead later that day at Christ Hospital.
The site of the ceremony was where organizers of the Peace Officers Memorial Foundation of Cook County hope to install a police memorial that would include the names of the 736 officers who died in the line of duty in the county.
Edward Sajdak, president and founder of the Oak Lawn-based foundation, said about 70 percent of the officers killed in the state were in Cook County, but there's never been a memorial for them here.
He said the foundation is halfway through its $3 million goal to build the memorial since it began fundraising about eight years ago.
Sajdak said the Lyons site was chosen for the memorial because it's centrally located in the county.
Saturday's ceremony opened with a procession of more than 70 police vehicles down Ogden Avenue. After parking, officers marched through the park led by mounted police and a bagpipe and drum band.
Oak Forest police detective Roberto Frias addressed the crowd of about 200 people who mostly were officers from multiple departments in the county.
"Although we police have come under recent scrutiny and criticism, some justified, most of it not, those here are inspired with the courage to uphold the law," he said.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-3rd, who spoke at the event, echoed that sentiment. He added that people can forget what police have to go through and the dangers they face, especially when a lot of media attention is focused on the misdoings of relatively just a few officers around the country.
"Most people don't understand everything police officers have to deal with every day," Lipinski said.
James Morrissy, for example, worked the night shift for much of his 34-year career and made record numbers of drunk driving arrests in Oak Forest, Frias said.
"He volunteered to work the late shift, because he knew that's when crimes are most likely to occur," he said.
Frias said the irony is that Morrissy had just started working the day shift training new officers before he was killed.
The driver who crashed into Morrissy was not charged, and Frias said, "It was just (an) accident — plain and simple."
Janice Morrissy said she had always been aware of the dangers her husband faced.
"For me, I tried not to think about it," she said. "You can't obsess on it and just try to live each day."
The stresses of the streets did not change their family life, she said.
"He tried to shield us as much as possible," she said.
Janice Morrissy said the support from her husband's fellow officers has helped family through the emotional pain of losing him.
Their son, Marc Morrissy, who also attended Saturday's ceremony, said many Oak Forest officers have told them about their experiences with his dad.
"They got our back whenever we need it," he said.
Three other police officers who were killed in the line of duty also were recognized Saturday.
One was Rogers Park police officer Clarence Bixler who was killed in 1892 after being shot while trying to keep the peace between two brothers. Sajdak said Bixler's great, great grandchildren informed the group that he was not on any memorial and deserved to be.
The other officers were Illinois Central Railroad Police Chief Cyrus E. Van Sickle who was killed in 1916 during a gun fight with train robbers, and New York Central Railroad police officer William M. Burke who was killed in 1922 after being struck by a train while chasing a suspected burglar.
Several Cook County commissioners also spoke at the event, and Sheriff Tom Dart attended.
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