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tv   President Biden Remarks at Natl Peace Officers Memorial Service  CSPAN  October 18, 2021 5:06pm-5:40pm EDT

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>> now, president biden gives remarks at the 40th annual national police memorial service to honor the 491 law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty during 2019 and 2020. his remarks are just over half an hour. [applause] >> good afternoon.
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my name is james smallwood, a sergeant with the metropolitan national police department and i am also the national fraternal order of police treasurer. i want to thank you for taking the time to be here with us on this 40th anniversary of the national peace officers memorial service. as we come together on this national peace officers memorial day, we must reflect on the past two years and recognize the grief and fear that has accompanied the challenging and ever-changing lives -- ever-changing times we have faced as a nation during the covid-19 pandemic. our communities have struggled to make sense of it all and find peace and acceptance of our new reality, but through it all there is one thing that has remained constant and steadfast. the unwavering dedication of selfless law enforcement officers who swore an oath to protect and serve their communities. these challenging times have tested our character, yet we
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have not backed down. they have tested our perseverance. yet we are still standing tall. and they have without a doubt tested our noble profession, yet we still stand strong on the line between order and chaos and communities across this great nation. for the last two years due to the pandemic and for the first time since the national fraternal order of police started the peace officers memorial service 40 years ago, we were unable to gather in person to memorialize and honor our fallen. to our surviving families, both blood and blue, we have come together today to draw strength from one another as we honor our fallen law enforcement heroes from 2019 and 2020, each of them ordinary men and women who chose a life with an extraordinary purpose. for some of you it has been a year, and for others much longer.
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there simply is no way to set a milestone for a limit on one's grief, for we can measure time, but a loss is simply immeasurable. however, for the 491 women and men we honor here today and their families, we know all too well that the sense of order americans enjoy in their daily lives comes with a high price, a price paid by brave women and men who gave their last full measure of devotion in the service of others. as we reflect on the loss of our loved ones and colleagues, our minds inevitably begin to question the cost of the sacrifice made. we search for reason, and undoubtedly, our faith in the value of the price paid is lost with our inability to accept what has happened. these emotions and the sadness felt by survivor families are overwhelming and difficult, if
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not impossible, to experience alone, and that is why the national peace officers memorial service is so very important. though nothing can compensate for your great loss, we hope that coming together today and expressing our honor and respect for your loved one will bring you some level of comfort. just as we cannot pull on the grass to make it grow, we cannot manipulate the time it will take each of us to heal. but know this -- the fraternal order of police and your entire blue family are here for you. as the treasurer of the national fraternal order of police, it is an honor for me to stand before you today representing the 364,000 members across this great nation to say we stand with you, we mourn with each of you, and we express our heartfelt gratitude and respect for your loved one's courage, dedication, and sacrifice. it has been said that a person only dies when their name is no longer spoken. as each of these names are read
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today, let us take comfort in knowing that their sacrifice will be forever remembered as they take their place of honor among those who have come before us. later today when you place the rows upon the wreath in honor of your loved one, take a moment to remember the life they lived and the passion that they lived it with, and as the final salute is rendered, reflect not on their absence but the love and laughter you shared with one another. our fallen heroes would not want to be remembered any other way. and as you leave here today, take the time to share stories with one another about your mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, and coworkers. take the time to laugh, laugh out loud, and cry if you must. strive to remember them not as they are now but as they were, brave heroes whose mission it
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was only to make the world a better place, each in their own way. find joy in their memories, say their names, say them often, so that their memories may live on forever. [applause] mr. president, we are grateful to have you here on this solemn day of remembrance. on this day our brother and sister officers, their families and loved ones come together to share our grief and draw strength from one another, certain in the knowledge that their sacrifices and the lives they led live on in all of us. president biden has been here on many occasions during his time in the united states senate and also delivered the keynote address at this event while he was vice president of the united states. i also want to salute his leadership on helping us with criminal justice reform. we were in regular contact with the administration while working on this important issue.
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mr. president, i want to let you know we appreciated all of your efforts. brother and sisters, our survivor families, and distinguished guests, please help me welcome the president of the united states, mr. joseph r. biden. [applause] thank you, mr. president. [applause] pres. biden: thank you, sergeant. my name is joe biden. i am jill biden's husband. that's how i am better known. president yost, auxiliary president penny, auxiliary president lehman, and a guy i have known for a long time, jimmy pascoe, executive director, thank you for this invitation to be with you today. the secretary of homeland
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security, mayorkas, thank you for being here and for the great job you are doing for us. thank you very much, and it is a tough job. most importantly, the families here today, this is all about you. about you. you know, i have been coming to this memorial for 40 years. i missed a couple. and i have spoken at many, too many, police memorials around the country. and it always amazes me how the public does not fully understand what we expect of our law enforcement officers. we expect you to be people ready to stand in the way and take a bullet for us. we expect you to be able to track down the bad guys.
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we expect you to be the psychologist who talks to the couple -- who talks the couple that are having a violent confrontation together to step back. we expect you to be everything. we expect everything of you, and it is beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it has ever been, and to the families of the fallen, you have suffered an enormous loss, but understand your loss is also america's loss. america's loss, and your pain is america's pain, but waking up to the notion that unless we change the environment in which the job can be done, we are going to
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have trouble having enough women and men come forward to want to do the job. i hope all of the families, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, moms, dads, i hope you're able to take a measure of comfort and strength from the extended family you have here and all around you. and -- in remembrance and respect of this memorial this day, i ordered our flags to be flown at half staff. we have met here in front of this united states capitol many times before to memorialize our fallen heroes. it is particularly appropriate today, because here nine months ago your brothers and sisters supported an -- your brothers and sisters thwarted an
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unconstitutional and fundamentally un-american attack on our nation's values and votes, and because of you democracy survived, but only because of the women and men of the u.s. capitol police force, the washington metropolitan police department and other law enforcement agencies, who once again literally put their bodies on the line to protect our democracy. that is why i have no hesitation -- had none at all -- in signing the law awarding a congressional gold medal of congress, the highest expression of our nation's appreciation, to the u.s. capitol police and washington, d.c. metropolitan police and other responding law enforcement agencies. [applause] because of these men and women, we averted a catastrophe, but their heroism came at a cost to you and your families. 150 officers injured, five lost
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in the attack's aftermath. the toll on this profession these past years has been heavy, too heavy. 2020 was the deadliest year for law enforcement on record, and today we are here to remember nearly 500 of your brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. 2019 and 2020, we lost so much. i attended this memorial service many times, as i said, to pay my respects. sometimes i have been the speaker, other times i have sat on the stage and thought about all of you sitting on the lawn. although this year, i do not know any of them personally who have fallen, any of the
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individuals, i have gone through all the names. i feel i know them without having ever met them. you see, i grew up in a neighborhood in scranton, pennsylvania and claymont, delaware, where i grew up with the guys and women that we are honoring today. one of my best friends in grade school, eddie hill, became the superintendent of delaware state police, a great friend and competitor. we played ball against one another. charlie became chief of the wilmington police force, and so many more. although i did not know them personally, i know you. i know you. i always joked that i grew up in places where you either became a cop, a firefighter, or priest.
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i was not qualified for any of them so i had to settle for this. all kidding aside, over the years as chairman of the judiciary committee, i have gotten to know you. even as kids, we could see in the women and men around us who the ones who had the heart. they are the ones who ran in two -- ran in to help you when everyone else was running away. they ran toward even when they -- they ran toward cries of help even when they were in grade school, knowing that they would be able to help a little bit even if they were outnumbered. and i am not making this up. think about it. think about your son, daughter, husband, wife -- who they were, what was inside them. it was about service to protect,
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defend. this isn't just what law enforcement does, it is who you are. it is what makes you who you are. when you put on that shield in the morning and walk out the door each day, every family member dreads the possibility of receiving that phone call. i was talking to steny about this. just as our son beau was in kosovo for six months and iraq for a year, he was the chief law enforcement officer for the state of delaware, the attorney general. i would watch every morning because she left for school every morning before i got on the train. jill standing there mouthing a prayer as she drank a cup of coffee over the sink, praying
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for beau. you do it every day. you did it every day. there was a line from an english poet, john milton. he said, they also serve what we -- they also serve who only stand and wait. how long have you had to stand and wait and wonder? you heard something on the news or you saw it on television, thousands and thousands of american families stand and wait so their husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters can serve the rest of us. we not only owe them, we owe you. it is not hyperbole. i mean this from the bottom of my heart, we owe you. we need to support them. too many of you sitting out there have received that
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terrible call that your loved one won't be coming home at the end of his or her shift. to the mothers and fathers here today, my heart aches for you. believe it or not, jill and i understand. we got one of those calls in a different circumstance. no parent should have to bury a child. i lost a baby daughter in an accident. i lost a brave son to cancer after coming home from a year in iraq. but you know what? what you have gone through his heart. -- is hard. the fact that he was the chief law enforcement officer in delaware, he was not out there literally. he would go on patrol but he was not out there walking up the stairs to make an arrest or try
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to stop that fight. it was always about family. it is like losing a piece of your soul. some of you still have that feeling like you have been sucked into a black hole in your chest, wondering, my god, will it ever change? sergeant mclean from detroit, decorated for exemplary service during his 16 year career, he turned down a promotion so he could continue to work as a mentor to other officers in his district. every two weeks, he sent his wife flowers at work like clockwork to brighten her day in her office. he was killed responding to a domestic violence call. officer tiffany victoria enrique
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from honolulu, she was one of two officers killed while responding to a call. she was the first female officer to die in the line of duty from the honolulu police department. her boyfriend, also an officer, called her the most hard-working, amazing, fiercest officer i've ever known. my heart is shattered, and she was my love, my rock, my strength. so many. officer charles birzilda passed away in 2016 but he was recognized in his line of duty this year. he was part of an elite unit, the port authority of new york and new jersey, trained to perform technical rescue
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operations. after the terrorist attack on september 11, he was assigned to search and recover, recovery efforts at the world trade center. he, like so many others, contract the cancer he died following that assignment. he made friends wherever he went. he loved the outdoors. he was his neighborhood go to guy, organizing most anything, including hunting expeditions. as you call the roll today, we are keenly aware that behind each name our families that said we know from personal experience that every time there is a ceremony or memorial honoring your lost husband or wife, son or daughter, you can summon that pride but also that terrible feeling, as if you are just hearing that news for the first time. so i want you to know, i know
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although you look forward to honoring your family member, it is hard. it is hard. i mean this sincerely, jill and i admire your courage for just being here. we hope you take some comfort in the knowledge that the men and women here assembled today, they will always be with you. not a joke, they will always be with you. wherever you are, even if you don't know them, a city, a town, a place you have never been before. as much as we hope not, there are going to be more names added to this roll call of bravery and sorrow. there already have been. as i was preparing these remarks , earlier this morning in houston, one deputy killed and two wounded. the chief from houston is here today.
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i don't know where he is, but he is here today, i am told. seven houston police officers in his department were killed in the line of duty since 2019. chief, i am here for you, pal. so is everybody else. we mourn the fallen, we pray for the recovery of the wounded. as i have said, i have spoken too many times, too many funerals for police officers, too many service members -- too many funerals for brave servants who kept us safe. so under the mournful sound of the bagpipes, we must also hear something else, a call to do better, to do more to keep you safe, to keep our communities safer, for us to step up, to build trust and respect and heal the breach we see in so many communities. to recognize that the promise of
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impartial and equal justice is not a reality for all, particularly in low income communities. too many communities, black and brown, too many communities are grieving unnecessary losses. i want to acknowledge the fop, as was mentioned earlier, for seriously trying to reach agreement on meaningful reforms, congressional reforms and negotiations over the george floyd policing act. but here is the part -- a lot of the help has to come to police departments. they need help to do better. i want to thank you for being a constructive player in this process. we have not gotten there yet, but we must get there. there is too much pain, too much loss, too much at stake for the safety of those who serve. it is a hard time to be a police it is a hard time to be a
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police officer in america, so i want to make sure you have the tools to be the partners and protectors you are communities need, and when you look at your communities' need and you are being asked to do, there is not going to be more resources, not fewer resources, to help you do your job. that is why i propose we invest in community policing. the one thing that protects a cop as another cop, and the training you in the community have requested, community-based programs and interventions that can stop violence before it starts, provide specific guidance explaining that communities can and should use funds from the american rescue plan to cities, states, counties, tribes, to hire and retain officers. many cities from albuquerque to st. paul are doing just that. and i propose $300 million in my budget to support policing across the country.
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it is hard when you don't know the community. and the most important way to get to know them is to have more police. we are also investing in community violence intervention programs, which have a proven track record of reducing violence up to 60% in cities across the nation. at the same time, we have to stop asking law enforcement officers to do every single job under the sun. i am committed to investing in mental health services, mental health professionals who can respond to mental health crises alongside you. you shouldn't be the one having to talk somewhat off the edge of a roof. one having to talk somewhat off the edge of a roof. you should have professional help with you. support our law enforcement officers requires we invest in systems that provide adequate health care, counseling, drug treatment prevention, housing, education, and other social services in the community so there is not the discord. l services in the community so there is not the discord. we need to work together to
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confront the epidemic of gun violence. your brothers and sisters have told me over the years sometimes you feel like you are outgunned. right now the justice department is working with state and local law enforcement across the country to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. they now have zero tolerance for gun dealers who willfully violate the law, putting firearms in the hands of people who are in danger to the community and you. i also went to make it easier for states to adopt red flag laws, laws and left them in members or law enforcement to petition a court order to temporally remove firearms from people in crisis representing a danger to themselves and others. by the way, or people died of gunshot wounds in america as a consequence of suicide than any other reason. i have called on congress to
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reauthorize and act and close domestic violence loophole to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. 40% of all calls the result of an officer's death were domestic violence related. these steps will protect you, protect the people you serve, and finally ended tragically in the past two years covid-19 as cause more deaths in the line of duty than all of the other causes combined. many of those lost their lives keeping our society safe, serving on the front lines in those dark early days of the pandemic, but now let us prevent the preventable tragedies. the last time i stood here was to take the oath of office as were president. i said that date we have much to repair, much to restore, much to
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heal, it was to build, but she game. it remains true i believe with all my heart, there is nothing you are unable to do if we equip you, and we can unite this nation and fight our common photos, anger, resentment, acreage, extremism, racism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, hopelessness. we have never, ever feel that america when we acted together. so let's act together, support you in the service of the nation we love. in closing, let me say that i know there are no words, no memorials that can fill that
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void, that black hole in your chest that you feel, but i promise you the day will come when the memory of your loved one will bring a smile to your lips before he brings a tear to your eye. that is when you know you are going to make it. that is when you know. that will happen. my prayer for you is that that day will come sooner than later. there is a headstone in a cemetery in ireland that reads death leaves arctic no one can heal -- heart ache that no one can heal. love leaves a memory that no one can steal. there are with you. they are in your heart, a part of you. may the souls of those you love and those of whom you serve rest in peace at a rise in glory -- and rise in glory. in the meantime they are in our
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prayers. may god bless you, and may god protect all of those who serve us in uniform. thank you. [applause]
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>> i would like to introduce an officer from the chicago, illinois police department. ♪
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♪ >> the u.s. senate returns today at 3:00 in eastern to reconsider consideration of judicial nominations with the votes in the afternoon. later in the week, lawmakers are expected to vote on whether to debate a bill on elections and voting rights. across the capitol, the
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u.s. house is back tuesday for legislative work. this week's schedule includes bills preventing family violence and strengthening the rights of nursing mothers. taking a longer view, majority leader hoyer has had to expect work on infrastructure and social spending in the next three weeks. he also said democrats are exploring options to change or modify the debt limit, and may consider legislation to do so as early as this month. watch the house live on c-span and the senate on c-span2. both are also available online at, or on the go with c-span now, our new video app. >> washington unfiltered. c-span in your pocket. download c-span now today. facebook and our twitter feed is available @cspanwj. th


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