In front of the Marlborough Police Department and inside its main lobby stand two trees. Several ornaments resembling police shields and other decorations hang on the tree inside. On the outside, blue lights cover the tree from top to bottom. Friday, Dec. 10 marked the annual honoring of the lives of fallen police officers, near and wide, during the “Blue Light” ceremony.
Patrol Officer Curt Fulton has been in charge of hosting and planning the memorial service since 2010 but the ceremony itself goes back 12 -15 years now, according to Fulton. “It’s hard to do this, it’s important to do it,” Fulton said. The memorial service was initially created by Marlborough Town Supervisor Al Lanzetta who brought blue lights from his home and put them on the tree in front of town hall. “We started this event back in 2006 when I first became supervisor,” Lanzetta said. After leaving and returning to public office, Lanzetta is thankful for the continuation of the ceremony by the police department and he tells readers if you see a police officer, go up to them, shake their hand and thank them.
Fulton has been an officer for the past 14 years and previously worked as a school teacher for 32 years. When he retired as a teacher, he joined the police academy.
According to Fulton, the number of officers who have died this year is up to 445. The largest number of deaths reported this year are deaths as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The importance of tonight’s event for Fulton is to continue the memory of those fallen officers and to hopefully change the narrative of the ‘blue line’. The ‘blue line’ to some may represent a symbol of hate or negativity, but Fulton says the ‘blue line’ is a symbol that separates chaos from order, separates lawful citizens from criminals and is the difference between a society that lives safely rather than in anarchy. The origins of the color blue in policing, according to Fulton, originate in London, England in the 1800s, where Sir Robert Peel wanted to distinguish officers from the soldiers who wore red. Thus officers became known as ‘bobbys’ due to his name and the color blue remained for officers.
As the ceremony has grown and changed, so too has the meaning of the ornaments and decorations. As you walk to the station, on the trees, the various decorations hold weight to the ceremony. Described in Fulton’s notes, the clear, empty ornaments represented the voids felt by families, friends and comrades of fallen officers. Faded blue ribbons on ornaments represented the lost life of the officer. The named ornaments are New York State officers who have died this year. The blue lights represent the ‘thin blue line’. The white lights are a reminder of the officers we lost and the unknown potential they had.
In the bitter cold, members of the Marlborough community, Marlborough officers and elected officials joined one another to listen to Fulton’s words of remembrance. On that night, Fulton recognized nine officers from New York State who had their names and towns of residence read out loud for all to hear and remember. Sheriff Adrian H. “Butch” Anderson of Dutchess County was also recognized by the Marlborough Department.
With a blessing delivered by Pastor David Stein of Lattingtown Baptist Church, the lights on the tree appeared in the dark, and a trumpet sounded, played by Julia Gaer, as Taps rang into the night.
“It’s a somber moment, I’m glad that we can celebrate Christmas and the holidays but it’s always sad to have to honor the fallen in the state and in the country,” Police Chief Gerald Cocozza, Jr. said.