Thousands gathered Thursday at the 52nd annual Police Memorial Day ceremony to honor the 286 law enforcement officials who lost their lives on duty this year. But May 15 is actually just one day of National Police week, where communities all over the country honor the 900,000 sworn officials in the United States.  

Here is everything you need to know but were too embarrassed to ask about National Police Week. 

How did it start?

Every May 15 since 1962 has been known as Police Memorial Day. The national Memorial Day was established by an Act of Congress in 1962 while John F. Kennedy was president. It is officially called the National Peace Officers Memorial Day and was established to recognize those law enforcement officials who lost their lives at work in the past year. Every year, the current president must issue a proclamation declaring that it is both Police Week and National Peace Officers Memorial Day. In addition, the proclamation must order flags on all government buildings at half-staff and invite government officials to observe the day.

What happens during Police Week?

This year, police week runs from May 11-17 and the bulk of the events take place in Washington, D.C. A candlelight vigil is held at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in D.C. The names of more than 20,000 fallen law enforcement officials are inscribed on the monument. The following day, families of the victims and survivors can attend a conference to receive support and meet others in similar situations. May 15 is the official memorial service, where flags are lowered to half-staff on government buildings and notable guests speak as the crowd honors the fallen. On the final day, police officers are invited (for a discounted price!) to watch a Washington Nationals baseball game played in their honor. 

Apart from the official events, communities around the country do their part to thank law enforcement. For example, A Cleaner World, a dry cleaning conglomerate with locations across the country, announced on Twitter that it would offer to clean law enforcement uniforms for free today. 

How many people attend?

The entire week of events typically draws in between 25,000 to 40,000 people, according to the official website. The memorial service is open to everyone who is part of the law enforcement community.

Who organizes it?

Several community organizations band together to organize National Police Week every year. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund sponsors the candlelight vigil and the memorial. The Fraternal Order of Police organizes the services at the U.S. Capitol building.

Are weapons prohibited?

Not strictly. The official Police Week website says that “if you do not need your weapon, we suggest you leave it at home.” Non-law enforcement guests are not allowed to bring weapons.

Who will be honored this year?

View the full roll call of the 286 men and women added to the memorial this year here