Officer Down

Submitted by Lawrence Bechtel

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Client: City of Roanoke Police Department

Location: Roanoke, VA, United States

Completion date: 2006

Artwork budget: $86,000

Project Team

Artist

Lawrence Bechtel

Lawrence Reid Bechtel Sculpture Studio

Landscape Architect

Matt Gart

Virginia Tech

Overview

I had about a 6' x 6' pedestal to work with, so I had to be sure about the positioning of the figures, especially the fallen officer, to be sure they both fit. I worked in clay, developing 1/3 lifesize maquette, and worked in the “Community Room” at least once, soliciting officers' comments, then produced a full-size clay model. Bronze casting was handled by Carolina Bronze Sculpture. The city employed a crane operator to lift and set the sculpture in place

Goals

I searched for an idea that would be dramatic and compelling, and found it in talking with an officer who had been present at the shooting depicted in the sculpture. The emotional visual center of the sculpture is the linked hands--symbolizing both the bond between officers, but also, hopefully, the linkage between the police and the community.

Process

I worked closely with the police department on this project. I interviewed Lieutenant Sidwell two times to make sure I had depicted the incident accurately. The supply sergeant allowed me to check out a full uniform, with protective vest and belt equipment (with a "dummy" gun). I had officers in uniform model for me as I worked, and I went on a "Citizen Ride-Along" to acquaint myself with what it was like to work as a police officer. I developed a tremendous sense of respect for officers, and the complexity of their duties.

Additional Information

I came to the realization that much of police work is a kind of counseling; since officers are frequently the first persons on the scene in emergency situations, where people are either hurt, disoriented, or feeling simply overwhelmed with life, the officers may simply have to comfort people, or provide some sense of stability and security, or be a "sounding board."