‘Run to Remember’ honoring fallen, injured cops offers morale boost for reeling police department

“It just continues that camaraderie that was together for Officer French’s wake, for her funeral,” said former top cop Phil Cline, executive director of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. “And it shows that we’re not going to forget her.”

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Participants cross the finish line Sunday at the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s “Run to Remember” on Chicago’s Museum Campus.

Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

Three days after Chicago police Officer Ella French was laid to rest, thousands trotted around the Museum Campus Sunday to honor the city’s fallen and seriously injured cops and raise money for their families.

The 17th annual “Run to Remember,” sponsored by the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, brought in nearly $500,000 after being canceled last year due to the pandemic, organizers said.

And with the department still reeling from the shooting that killed French and critically wounded her partner, Officer Carlos Yanez Jr., current and former police officials said the jovial event offered a much-needed morale boost.

“It just continues that camaraderie that was together for Officer French’s wake, for her funeral,” said former top cop Phil Cline, now the memorial foundation’s executive director. “And it shows that we’re not going to forget her.”

The son of slain Officer Alex Valadez, who was gunned down during a drive-by attack in 2009 in Englewood, served as the race’s official starter.

Amid the crowd, some donned shirts memorializing officers killed in the line of duty, while others hoisted pro-police flags and gathered around the finish line near Soldier Field. As a cover band played classic rock hits at a nearby ceremony, some kids climbed an armored SWAT vehicle like a jungle gym.

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Children climb on an armored police vehicle Sunday during the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s “Run to Remember” event on Chicago’s Museum Campus.

Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

Officer Dan McGreal, who’s assigned to Midway International Airport, said it’s uplifting to mix with supporters and the families of fallen officers to “honor everybody that’s passed over the years.”

However, McGreal acknowledged he and other cops “feel like we don’t have the backing of our politicians,” specifically Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. What’s more, he said the department’s trend of canceling days off and extending shifts has taken a toll on rank-and-file officers.

“Morale has been down, for sure,” he said. “I’ve been on 24 years, and I haven’t seen it this low. But it’ll go back up. We’ve just gotta keep fighting through.”

Apparently citing a recent WGN poll that found 70% of residents have at least a somewhat positive opinion of the police force, Cline encouraged Chicagoans to be more vocal about their support for the police department.

“Cops want to feel that they’re appreciated,” he said.

“People know that if the police were gone, it would be anarchy. You wouldn’t be able to live in this city,” added Cline, who believes recent events may “turn the pendulum” toward broader support.

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