Bible Way Baptist Church held a special memorial service Tuesday to honor the lives and public service of deceased police officers Milan Merke, Moses Walker and Marc Brady. Mayor Michael Nutter gave heartfelt remarks and the Rev. Damon Jones, Sr., senior pastor of Bible Way, gave a stirring sermon from Romans 8:38.
A coalition of diverse clergymen, elected officials and rank-and-file police officers, along with a few hundred people from across Philadelphia convened at Bible Way to support the families and friends of the fallen officers.
“This year, we had three officers who died, who were all off duty when they died. These three officers all happened to been African American. One was due to senseless gun violence, one was an accident, and one was murdered in a robbery attempt. All these officers, Officer Brady, Officer Merke and also Officer Walker deserve to have us remember them in a special way,” said Jones.
A number of police officers attend Bible Way, Jones said.
“I was kind of burdened,” said Jones. “I have a number of officers here at Bible Way Church and I’m always concerned about them. But when I heard about these officers all being killed, in pretty much a close proximity of time, I felt like we needed to do something to recognize them. Because when they die, and you’re not on duty, you don’t get all of the things that the city would normally give to officers killed while they were on duty.”
Nutter spoke about the three fallen officers, and underscored the bravery of police officers who risk their lives on a daily basis, running to danger that regular citizens run away from.
“We’re grateful,” said Nutter. “Pastor Damon Jones is a tremendous community leader, and certainly with Bible Way Baptist Church, and Black Clergy of Philadelphia and other organizations that are cosponsoring tonight, we celebrate the lives and pray for the families of the fallen officers. They gave tremendous service to the citizens of this city. And we want to make sure that their families know that we will never forget them, that they will always be in our thoughts and prayers. And we lift them up as great examples of public servants and certainly fine police officers. The community was better served by their service and we hope that others might emulate the great work that these men did.”
According to Police Officer Rochelle Bilal, many city residents were supportive of the memorial for the fallen officers because they wanted to demonstrate their solidarity against the violence in your streets.
“They are rallying behind the officers and coming together to try to stop the violence in the neighborhood or the city,” she said.
Bilal is president of the Guardian Civic League, a group that provides aid and other forms of support to the families of fallen police officers.
“This is to show the families we are in support of them and to speak about the senseless violence that continues to happen in the city,” she said.
Bible Way took up a charitable collection during the memorial service to benefit the Guardian Civic League.
Officer Marcus O’Shaughnessy was a member of the color guard that marched in a processional to open the memorial service. He feels that public sentiment toward police can impact overall morale of the police force, “We appreciate when people support us,” he said.
Officer Darryl Jones, another member of the color guard taking part in the memorial service, expressed deep gratitude toward clergy members who support their brave efforts to protect and serve the public.
“It’s truly an honor,” said Jones, who is serving his 23rd year on the force. He is optimistic about the shifting good and bad public sentiment toward the behavior of Philadelphia police officers. “It’s something we expect, and we take the good with the bad. We’re not perfect, but we do uphold the law, and regardless of how the public feels about us, the vast majority are in our favor.”