FOP dedicates 21 plaques at union hall

  • Officer James Ramp’s son, James Jr. (far left), has a moment of silence with family members. His father died in 1978 during the MOVE standoff. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

  • Officer David F. Sampson’s granddaughter spoke during the dedication. Sampson died in 1973 after a car struck him while he was assisting a stranded motorist on Woodhaven Road. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

  • Everlasting heroism: Members of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police and their supporters dedicated 21 plaques to memorialize officers who were killed in the line of duty. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

Be­ing a cop in the “olden” days wasn’t much safer than it is today.

Throughout most of the 19th cen­tury and in­to the early 20th, Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficers faced many of the same daily per­ils as their con­tem­por­ary coun­ter­parts do, while con­front­ing many unique dangers of an­tiquity.

Last Wed­nes­day, mem­bers of the city’s Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice and their sup­port­ers form­ally ded­ic­ated 21 plaques at their uni­on hall to me­mori­al­ize of­ficers who were killed in the line of duty. Nine­teen of those deaths oc­curred between 1828 and 1908, long be­fore the ad­vent of the mod­ern po­lice de­part­ment and when cops were as likely to be thrown from a horse or stomped in a ri­ot as shot by a vi­ol­ent crim­in­al.

The ce­re­mony at FOP Lodge 5’s new Car­oline Road headquar­ters also re­cog­nized two re­l­at­ively mod­ern-day slain of­ficers. Dav­id F. Sampson died in 1973 after a car struck him while he was as­sist­ing a stran­ded mo­tor­ist on Wood­haven Road near Academy Road. James J. Ramp died in 1978 as a res­ult of a gun­shot wound he suffered dur­ing a shootout with MOVE mem­bers on the 300 block of N. 33rd St.

“Even though I nev­er had a chance to meet him, I know my grand­fath­er Dav­id Sampson was a great man,” Delaney Sampson, a sixth-grade stu­dent at St. Eph­r­em’s School in Ben­s­alem, told hun­dreds of gathered po­lice of­ficers and their fam­il­ies.

James Ramp Jr., son of the slain of­ficer, said that the FOP and Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment have con­tin­ued to “be very help­ful, re­spect­ful and sup­port­ive” to his fam­ily since his fath­er’s killing.

The ar­ray of 21 newly in­stalled me­mori­al plaques is an op­por­tun­ity “to also be mind­ful of the of­ficers who have passed and who do not have fam­il­ies alive today,” Ramp said.

Those her­oes in­clude Watch­man Steven Heimer, the city’s first po­lice “line of duty” death. Heimer died in 1828 of in­jur­ies he suffered while in­ter­ven­ing in a ri­ot of weavers. Twenty-eight years later, Watch­man Cor­neli­us “Neil” Mooney was shot and killed dur­ing an­oth­er ri­ot.

In 1876, Of­ficer Henry O’Don­nell was over­come by sun­stroke while work­ing the Centen­ni­al Ex­hib­i­tion and later died. In 1887, Of­ficer George Jack­son was killed by a thrown pav­ing stone.

In 1900, Of­ficer Charles O. Con­away saved a wo­man from an on­rush­ing trol­ley, only to place him­self in the trol­ley’s path. He was crushed to death. Two years later, Of­ficer Ed­ward George died after a trol­ley struck a po­lice horse wag­on in which he was rid­ing.

In 1908, Of­ficer Scott H. Shel­ley was stomped to death by a run­away horse.

Ac­cord­ing to the Of­ficer Down Me­mori­al Page web­site, 256 Phil­adelphia po­lice have been killed in the line of duty since 1828, in­clud­ing 132 as a res­ult of gun­fire and 68 as a res­ult of auto­mobile, mo­tor­cycle, train or street­car crashes.

Deputy Com­mis­sion­er Thomas Wright said that the de­ceased of­ficers’ fam­il­ies can take some com­fort in that their loved ones gave their lives pro­tect­ing the cit­izens of the city.

“I am humbled by their ac­tions, the leg­acy they left be­hind and the leg­acy they earned,” Wright said.

At­tor­ney Jimmy Binns foun­ded the Hero Plaque Pro­gram in 2001 to me­mori­al­ize of­ficers killed in the line of duty. Daniel Faulkner was the first honoree. Since then, the pro­gram has ex­pan­ded to in­clude Phil­adelphia fire­fight­ers and oth­er first re­spon­ders from the city’s sub­urbs and South Jer­sey. The pro­gram has honored 112 Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficers among 260 men and wo­men in uni­form.

“We will con­tin­ue the pro­gram un­til we hon­or each and every po­lice of­ficer and fire­fight­er who has giv­en his life to pro­tect the cit­izens of Phil­adelphia,” Binns said. ••

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