- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

MENASHA, Wis. (AP) - When Menasha police officer Martin Schrampfer changes the license plates on his vehicles, it will mark the culmination of a years-long project to honor fallen colleagues.

Schrampfer got the idea for the law enforcement memorial license plate, which became available to Wisconsin residents on May 4, when he saw other states’ plates during National Police Week in Washington, D.C. About five years ago he decided his home state needed to have a similar tribute to those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

“I came back after the third time out there (at National Police Week) seeing this and said, ‘This is just something that needs to be done here,’” he said.

The plate honors officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty and reminds their families that those sacrifices have not been forgotten. The plate incorporates symbolism: the thin blue line represents law enforcement’s place between order and chaos and a rose and shield signify those fallen with honor.

It took Schrampfer half a decade and three tries to get a bill passed in the state Legislature before he held the prototype in his hands, Post-Crescent Media (http://post.cr/1cxsvir ) reported. “It was just the right thing to do,” he said, to keep pushing for the plate.

Seeing the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the children and families mourning loved ones spurred Schrampfer on.

“You just kind of see that kind of stuff and realize we need to make sure people understand what’s happening out there and make sure the families know we haven’t forgotten about them,” he said.

Police Week and a candlelight vigil at the memorial are life-altering experiences, said Aaron Zemlock, community liaison officer with the Menasha Police Department. He said thousands of officers from around the world attend the event, as well as families of officers killed in the line of duty.

Like Schrampfer, Zemlock had already ordered a license plate by mid-May. As of last week, 90 sets of plates had been ordered, said Cody Castillo in the special plates unit of the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial contains the names of more than 20,000 officers who been killed in the line of duty since 1791.

“Unfortunately, it’s a memorial that’s never going to be finished,” Schrampfer said.

It’s a message that hits close to home for Schrampfer and other officers because, he said, any one of them could be the next name on the memorial’s two curving, 304-foot long marble walls.

Neenah Mayor Dean Kaufert pushed for the bill when he served in the state Assembly. Kaufert said his father had been a captain with the Neenah Police Department and agreed with Schrampfer that it would be nice to have a memorial license plate for law enforcement.

“It’s the least we can do to honor and to make sure we remember those who have given their lives in law enforcement,” he said.

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Information from: Post-Crescent Media, http://www.postcrescent.com

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