After more than 40 years since his last active shift, Al Bertone still carries his police badge in his pocket and sports another on his belt buckle. And he still feels his heartbeat increase when he listens to the police radios.
"I still listen to the radio. It's still in me that I have to know where the police are and what's going on," Bertone said. "I live right here in Carson City, but any police officer in the United States - I respect them for what they do."
Bertone served from 1950 to 1960 on the Johnston Police Force in Rhode Island, followed by a two year stint on the Rhode Island State Patrol. During that time, he investigated murders and helped provide security for the wedding of John F. Kennedy.
"At the time, we didn't have a lot of big crime like they do now. You got to meet a lot more people, but it was different. In all of the time I was a police officer, I never arrested anyone who was carrying a weapon," Bertone said.
Now, the 77-year-old Bertone has decided that it's time for all those who have lost their lives in the line of duty to be remembered in a small place and a big way.
"I went to the post office and saw stamps with dogs and cats, and then stamps with nurses, and I want a stamp with a police officer's badge to honor whose who have fallen," said Bertone.
Bertone said the idea for the design of the stamp came from address labels he received from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which is represented by a blue officer's badge draped with a red rose.
Each year, the U.S. Postal Service issues about 24 stamps on a variety of topics. The ideas for the stamps are chosen by the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee from ideas submitted by the public.
Ideas are first checked to see if they pass the criteria used to help select stamps. That includes no commercial enterprises and no fraternal, political or charitable organizations; and only events or themes of national significance are eligible. However, exceptions can be made if they are representative of more general concepts in American culture.
Bertone hopes that if more people express support for his idea then the committee will be more likely to make it a reality.
Once the idea is found to meet the criteria, it is submitted to the committee for a decision.
The committee is comprised of 15 members from various backgrounds including artists, museum curators, lawyers, professors, scientists and actors. They meet four times a year to vote on submissions for new stamps. From the time a stamp idea is approved until the stamp is issued is about three years.
But Bertone said he doesn't mind waiting, if it means that the fallen officers won't be forgotten. In the meantime, he said he is also working on getting a license plate to recognize slain officers.
"I don't want to be a hero or anything like that. I just want every police officer to know that someone is thinking about them," Bertone said.
n Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.