Police Officer Joseph Michael Downs

Police Officer Joseph Michael Downs

Philadelphia Police Department, Pennsylvania

End of Watch Monday, October 14, 1918

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Joseph Michael Downs

Police Officer Joseph Downs died as a result of complications of influenza while in the performance of his assigned duties during the Influenza Pandemic.

Due to the devastation of the Influenza Epidemic, Philadelphia Police districts were used as makeshift hospitals. Police officers were ordered to fill and deliver prescriptions, act as pallbearers of victims, placard homes, collect bodies of victims out of their homes, assist doctors and health officers, and make sure establishments were closed and following guidelines to stop the spread of the flu.

Police Officer Downs served with the Philadelphia Police Department for only four months and was assigned to the 9th Police District. He was survived by his wife and one son.

Effects of Spanish Flu on Law Enforcement

From 1918 to early 1919, the Spanish Flu pandemic infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide—about one-third of the planet’s population—and killed approximately 675,000 Americans. Many officers contracted this virus due to the requirements of their job.

The names of every officer who died in the line of duty from the Spanish Flu will likely never be known, but ODMP researchers continue to uncover new cases as part of our mission to never forget the fallen.

Please click here to view ODMP's Spanish Flu memorial listing all known fallen officers from the pandemic.


  • Age 31
  • Tour 4 months
  • Badge 927

Incident Details

  • Cause Duty related illness
  • Incident Date Saturday, October 12, 1918

communicable disease, Spanish Influenza

Most Recent Reflection

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Honored to be the second of what I hope will be numerous others to thank you for your service and sacrifice. Please know that your law enforcement family will never forget. God Speed.

Detective Cpl/3 Steven Rizzo
Delaware State Police (Retired)

July 10, 2024

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