Obama Honors Fallen Officers at Capitol Memorial
Hundreds of law enforcement officers and their families from every corner of the country gathered at the Capitol Friday to honor their fallen brethren.
At the 34th annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service, the local, state and federal officers, dressed in full uniforms, gathered on the West Front lawn for the solemn ceremony, which included remarks from President Barack Obama.
“Your jobs are inherently dangerous; the reminders are too common,” Obama said. “We cannot erase every darkness or danger from the duty you’ve chosen. We can offer you the support that you need to be safer.” Joining Obama on stage during the sunny afternoon ceremony were those in charge of Capitol security, including U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine, House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin. Sens. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, also sat on stage, along with newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Dine joined the family of fallen Capitol Police Sergeant Clinton Holtz as they processed up to a wreath to place a red flower inside a star. Holtz unexpectedly died after he suffered an aneurysm while on duty in January 2014. His legacy as a “gentle giant” was honored at several events as part of National Police Week.
Along with Holtz, the names of 131 officers who died in 2014 were read aloud, including New York Police Department Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were gunned down in their patrol car in December. As theirs and eight other NYPD officers’ names were read, a contingent of NYPD officers stood at attention at the back of the ceremony and saluted.
Liu and Ramos’ deaths came at a time when the country was roiling with protests against police brutality, and government officials attempted to strike a balance between supporting law enforcement as well as the protests.
The ongoing tensions were touched on at the ceremony, as Chuck Canterbury, the president of Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, introduced Obama.
“Mr. President, it’s a difficult time for law enforcement, for the men and women on the beat and for families at home.” Canterbury said. “And our hope is that our nation will stand up for law enforcement and be thankful that we have kept them safe.”
Obama also touched on the subject, while listing the ways Americans can help law enforcement officers as they protect the streets.
“We can work harder as a nation to heal the rifts that still exist in some places between law enforcement and the people you risk your lives to protect,” Obama said. “We owe it to all of you who wear the badge with honor and we we it to your fellow officers who gave the last full measure of devotion.”
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