When it comes to trends, Hawaii has always trailed behind the rest of the country. Trends in the lower 48 don’t reach the islands until months after they’ve departed the mainland’s headlines. Honolulu police officer-turned-FBI agent Ed Ignacio identifies this phenomenon when it comes to negative attitudes towards cops. He’s worked in law enforcement for the last 25 years, and only recently has he noticed the work growing harder. There’s more negativity. People are more rebellious to officers.
“During most of my career, when you showed up to a scene, people treated you with immediate respect,” he said. “Now, the trend has come here. People are more suspicious. It puts officers in different situations, sometimes dangerous ones.”
Another area where Hawaii lagged behind was the construction of a Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Partway through his career, Ed served in Washington DC, where he would visit the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial. Of the 21,183 officers whose names are forever immortalized in stone there, 68 worked in the state of Hawaii. And of those 68 names, there are eight whom Ed knew personally.
But Hawaii didn’t have a memorial anywhere where those names could be inscribed.
“It bothered me a lot. I was close with those eight officers, and when I came back home, it upset me that their home state didn’t have a memorial where they could be remembered.”
Ed took action. In 2010, he led the charge for a state milestone, the formation of the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation. To raise money for the foundation and the construction of a wall, Ed decided to take a page out of the book of a man he admired: Fireman Rob.
Similar to how the Wisconsin firefighter competes in triathlons, finishing the final leg in 50 pounds of firefighter gear, Ed decided to do the same, wearing a BDU with vest and helmet to pay tribute and raise awareness for the cause of law enforcement officers in the state of Hawaii. Ed competed in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, raising $13,000 for the Memorial Foundation on behalf of the families of the 68 fallen Hawaii officers. It caught the attention of the state legislature, which approved a bill that funded the construction of the memorial.
In 50 extra pounds of gear, Ed harbored no illusion that he’d cross the finish line first. His motto for his Triathlon races is: ‘O ka ho’oko ‘a’ole ka ho’okuku ka mea e pono ai, which translates to “Here to complete, not to compete.” His races were a show of perseverance, dedication, and tribute to the officers who laid down their lives, and whom he hopes are never forgotten not just in Hawaii, but across the nation as well.
The Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial wall finally opened in May of 2016. In total, Ed raised over $700,000 for the project, and he’s eyeing his million-dollar goal with fierce determination.
What motivated Ed to push so passionately for the formation of the fund and the construction of the wall? The roots go back over twenty years, to the day he and his wife were married. “22 years ago, on my wedding day, two of my buddies were killed in the line of duty,” he says. “Every year on my anniversary, I am reminded of their sacrifice.”
Since Ed’s career with the local police came to an end, he decided to work for the FBI, fulfilling a promise he made to his father (who was also a cop) to gain even more experience in the law enforcement community. But even with his new federal duties, Ed continues to campaign on behalf of local cops. It’s the children who keep him going. The memorial isn’t just about remembering the dead. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund also raises money for the children of fallen officers, and until Ed came along, there was no such fund supporting the children of Hawaii officers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
On the day the wall finally went up, Ed saw the looks on the faces of the family members of the officers whose names were inscribed upon it. “One of the children said to me, ‘I was beginning to think they forgot about him’,” he said. Ed has an eight-year-old son, whom he thinks about in the context of if something unfortunate were to happen to him in the line of duty. “If something happened to me, what would happen to him?”
Ed’s goal is to ensure that fallen officers and their children from the great state of Hawaii are ever forgotten.
Find out how you can support the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation