Raleigh says skateboarders damaging new police memorial

akenney@newsobserver.comJune 16, 2014 

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The Raleigh Police Fallen Officer Memorial is located near the front of City Hall in downtown Raleigh.

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Pam Chestek has inadvertently become a guardian of the city’s new memorial to fallen police officers.

Chestek first spotted skateboarders on the installation on May 1, less than a week after the dedication of the piece built with $500,000 in donations.

In a way, she understood: The gentle, 60-foot-long slope of its elevated pool seemed a perfect sliding edge for the three young boarders. But Chestek above all was appalled as she watched from her office near Nash Square, so she called police.

What she saw was the beginning of an unfortunate trend that within two months has damaged the memorial and its plaza, according to the city.

“This memorial is gorgeous. It’s a beautiful piece of work, it’s very beautiful to the police officers,” she said. “It’s just a desecration.”

Officers arrived minutes after she called that first time and charged a 22-year-old man from Goldsboro with vandalism.

She saw skateboarders on the monument at least three more times that month, she said, and another call to police resulted in vandalism charges against two Greenville men on a Saturday afternoon, according to city records.

Yet the arrests haven’t kept skateboarders off the monument, which honors eight Raleigh police officers killed in the line of duty since 1922.

The memorial, dedicated on April 25, has suffered chipped concrete and deposits of black wax and other materials from skateboards, according to its designer, Thomas Sayre.

The damage appears on the steps to the memorial plaza and the water-filled table that is the memorial’s centerpiece.

It’s not necessarily visible from a distance, but it’s impossible to ignore, says Dennis Lane, a retired Raleigh police major and president of the Raleigh Police Memorial Foundation. The foundation funded the project, which includes 21 granite structures and the 60-foot-long elevated pool.

“It should be a place of reverence,” Lane said, noting that some relatives of fallen officers find a solace at the memorial when they can’t bring themselves to the cemetery.

“It’s been – how do I phrase this? – very disappointing among the foundation officers who built it, and among the police officers, and among the family members,” Lane said, adding that he’d also heard public concern about the damage.

The city has installed signs prohibiting skateboarding near the memorial, and now hopes that a media push will discourage skateboarders.

“We’ve really also wanted to apply some peer pressure, so that when people see people skateboarding (on the memorial), they say, ‘Hey, knock it off,’ ” said city spokeswoman Jayne Kirkpatrick.

“We’re hoping that people will respect this. It is a memorial to eight people who gave their lives trying to protect us.”

Chestek, the witness, suspects ignorance is the problem.

“The optimist in me hopes that it’s people who just don’t realize what it is,” she said. She’s planning to keep up her vigilance.

The Raleigh Police Memorial Foundation plans to repair the damage, Lane said, though he was not sure when.

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC

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