Hundreds gathered outside the headquarters of the Alexandria Police Department Sept. 26 for the unveiling and dedication of the APD Suicide Memorial, a tribute to officers who have died by suicide.
The names of Jason Kline and Steven Pagach IV, best friends who served together on the force, are etched on the granite slab located next to the APD Fallen Officers Memorial.
“Today we recognize and remember these men for their contributions and how they protected and served in this uniform,” said Police Chief Don Hayes. “It is our prayer that this memorial will always be a reminder to those wearing this uniform that we care and do not want to see anybody else’s name on this memorial.”
Kline died in 2004 and Pagach in 2011. APD Lt. Tara May did a presentation on the officers while at the National FBI Academy last year.
“I did a presentation on Jason and Steve and their struggles and suicide,” May said. “I returned to Alexandria and said we need to do something. We have other officers that may be struggling and need to take away the stigma of suicide and mental health issues. They struggled together for a very long time.”
May approached the Alexandria Police Foundation to coordinate the efforts to establish the memorial with several former law enforcement officials stepping up to bring the memorial to fruition.
“Several months ago Lt. Tara May reached out to me for obtaining a monument for this project,” said retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and board chair of Ivy Hill Cemetery, which donated the granite slabs used in the memorial. “After she told me what it was for I immediately knew we had what she was looking for -- something that recognizes these two men in a respectful and dignified way. This dancing slate of granite will forever whisper the names of Jason and Steve – proof that they are not forgotten.”
Retired Police Chief David Baker and retired Deputy Chief Hassan Aden donated funds to cover the cost of the inscription, which reads in part “In darkness there is light.”
“The stigma surrounding mental health has taken its toll on far too many people,” Aden said. “This memorial serves as a powerful reminder that we must create a culture of support, understanding and compassion where no one feels isolated or afraid to ask for help.”
Added Baker, “Today we salute the excellence and bravery of Jason and Steven. Make no mistake – they are and will always be our brothers in blue.”
Pagach’s mother and son attended the dedication ceremony.
“It means a great deal to have him acknowledged for his service,” said Pagach’s mother Sandy Colantuoni. “I know in my heart that his suicide was a direct result of the job.”
Pagach’s son Steve remembered his father as a fun-loving dad.
“He was a great guy and super fun to be around,” said Steve Pagach of his father. “Every day with him was some sort of adventure and that has been missing since we lost him. But I know that he is at peace now.”
According to May, a second plaque will be installed near the rear entrance to the building.
“A secondary plaque will be placed on the wall at the entrance where officers come in every day,” May said. “We want this to be a reminder that there is hope and there is help.”
The tributes to Kline and Pagach included calls for the resources to address mental health care.
“Policing is a profession that demands unwavering dedication, sacrifice and resilience,” Aden said. “Every day officers put on their uniforms, not knowing what challenges they will face, what dangers they will encounter, or how deeply those experiences will impact their lives. The weight of the badge is not just physical, it’s emotional, and mental. As a profession we must pledge to provide the resources, the training and the support necessary to safeguard the emotional and mental wellbeing of our officers.”