Late interim police chief Knapp honored in D.C. ceremony

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Michael Knapp, a former Blaine interim police chief and Whatcom County law enforcement leader, was commemorated for his years of service during the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. on May 13.

A virtual candlelight vigil recognized each of the 307 law enforcement officers who were memorialized this year after passing away in the line of duty. Knapp and the other officers’ names were engraved on the memorial’s wall alongside the names of over 21,000 officers who have passed away since 1791.

Knapp was serving as Lynden’s interim police chief when he passed away at the age of 79 on November 6 after being struck by a vehicle in downtown Lynden. Previous to his service in Lynden, Knapp served as Blaine’s interim chief from November 2017 to July 2018. He also served as the police chief for the city of Ferndale from 2005 to 2016.

Blaine Police Department sergeant Michael Munden fondly remembered Knapp’s legacy to the city of Blaine.

“He was in Blaine only a short time, but he changed our department forever. He left behind a re-modeled police department, and a group of dedicated public servants,” Munden said in an email to The Northern Light. “That doesn’t even touch on the impact he had on our community. He got to know the citizens, knew many by name. He visited businesses and others regularly. He was well-loved in our city.”

During his nine months in Blaine, Knapp helped restructure the department to function more efficiently after analyzing its procedures and updated the department to What-Comm 911, a dispatch system that hastened officer response time.

“He took a rudderless ship and set it to a purpose,” Munden said of Knapp’s impact on the department. “A dedicated professional himself with a storied law enforcement career, he expected the same high professional standards from us, and he got it.”

The ceremony was held as an annual celebration for National Police Week, which took place this year from May 10 to May 16. National Police Week started in 1982 with 120 people attending the first memorial service and eventually grew to multiple events honoring officers who’ve lost their lives, according to the police week website. The celebratory week, which was virtual this year, has drawn 25,000 to 40,000 attendees per year in the past.

Four of the law enforcement officers honored in this year’s memorial were from Washington. Justin DeRosier of Cowlitz County, Ryan Thompson of Kittitas County and Cooper Dyson of Pierce County were the three other Washington state officers recognized.

Struck by vehicle was the fourth most common cause for law enforcement death in the past decade, according to data gathered between 2009 and 2018 from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Munden said Knapp was adored by all of the officers in Blaine. 

“Chief Knapp was a humble man. I suspect he would tell you that many names on that wall were more deserving to be there than his. He would probably say that he was no hero,” Munden said. “But a hero he was, in every sense of that oft overused word. He was a man of honor and he deserves to be recognized and remembered.”

The ceremony can be viewed at nleomf.org and a virtual tour of the memorial can be taken at lawmemorial.org.

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