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Police, family, supporters gather to remember the fallen

Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia police commissioner and leader of President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Provided by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department

St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers, their families and supporters gathered in downtown St. Louis Friday morning to remember colleagues who have been killed in the line of duty.

One hundred sixty four officers from the department have been killed since 1863. The last name to be added to the list was in 2011, when Darryl Hall was killed while responding to a fight at a nightclub while he was off-duty.

The shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and its aftermath were on the minds of those at the somber gathering, which is held every year after the conclusion of National Police Week. It was a crowd who was certainly receptive to Mayor Francis Slay's reminder that it had been a tough year for law enforcement.

"Your work has been criticized, questioned and often unappreciated," Slay said. "But please keep in mind that those sentiments come from a vocal few."

In his remarks, Charles Ramsey, the police commissioner in Philadelphia and the leader of President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, did not hesitate to remind the crowd that relationships between police and some of the most troubled communities they serve need to improve.

"We're here to remember, and that's important," he said. "But we can't act as if we do not have these things going on right now. We need to make sure that we're doing everything to keep our community safe and secure, as well as our officers. The better relationships we have, the less likely they are to get hurt."

And Ramsey drew a standing ovation when he told the gathered crowd that despite the challenges, he had never been prouder to wear a uniform.

"Hold your head high," he commanded the gathered officers. "Don't let people beat you down. Hold it high, because you're part of one of the most noble professions on the planet."

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.