Remarks by the Vice President at TOP COPS Awards Dinner
J.W. Marriott Hotel
7:52 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Please sit down. Thank you very much. Mick, thank you for that great introduction. The reason Mick mentioned Scranton is his grandfather and father are from Scranton.
To your executive director, I’ve worked with a long time, Bill Johnson. I understand my good friend Senator Joe Donnelly was here a little bit earlier. And it is a privilege -- as they say a point of personal privilege, used to say in the United States Senate, I understand Wilmington Safe Streets Unit is here. So to my hometown, hello.
And, folks, it’s been the honor of my career to work with NAPO for all these years. I think I’ve made every TOP COP event but one when I was in the hospital. And other than that, I’ve made every one. And we go all the way back to the days when I was a local official in New Castle County, Delaware.
And ever since that time, we have supported each other on every single issue that’s been important to your membership. And you’ve always had my back. You've always had my back in these fights up on Capitol Hill, and it’s made a gigantic difference.
There wouldn’t have been a Biden crime bill, there wouldn’t have been that crime bill that put 100,000 cops in the street in the first place were it not for the fact that NAPO from the very beginning was the staunchest, staunchest advocate for it.
We would never have won that ridiculous fight -- why we had to fight so hard to outlaw cop-killer bullets -- but it would have never happened without NAPO. You've been there, and you've demanded it. And you forced everyone to listen.
We worked together on the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, which has helped purchase over 1 million protective vests for officers. And lord knows how many lives have been saved. The idea again we had to fight for that is sort of ridiculous, but we did.
And it’s been an honor to fight at your side to pass the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act in 1976, to expand it in 2001. And with Senator Hatch, a good Republican friend of mine, we raised that death benefit from $150,000 to $250,000, and then most importantly, we later indexed it, so it’s now $339,000. But you all know it could be $10 million. It’s not enough. It’s not enough. It’s not enough to make up for the loss of a fallen cop.
It’s not enough to provide a lump sum payment. We have the responsibility to look after the spouses and children, as well, beyond the monetary needs. So back in 1996, we passed the Federal Law Enforcement Dependents Assistance Act, which added education benefits to the law.
In 2000, with your help, we amended the law to make sure those benefits were retroactive, so any spouse or child whose parent was killed in the line of duty from 1978 on would receive an education benefit of up to -- worth up to $1,018 per month. We know all these benefits, as I said, can’t do anything that can replace a father, a mother, a husband, a wife. But the fact is that I’m confident all of you TOP COPS in here know that you get some solace at least knowing you're going into life-threatening situations, knowing that if something happens, if you're permanently disabled, if you -- something happens to you, that you're not going to have to wonder about who will care for you if you're disabled. You're not going to have to wonder who is going to care for your family, God forbid, if you don't make it out; or how is my kid going to get to college. Those things matter. You guys don't talk about it a lot, but you think about it a lot.
We know the risk you take to protect us every single, solitary day –- from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to New York City. And we as a nation have an unshakeable and undeniable responsibility to do everything we can to protect you -- and your families -- in return. We shouldn’t even have to discuss it, shouldn’t even have to be a matter of a debate. And finally we're getting there.
To the families here today, I want to say thank you, as Mick did. For you parents who are here, you’ve raised such fine women and men with such unshakeable sense of duty, I want to thank you. The country owes you for molding such men and women of character. You've done something extraordinary.
And for the wives and husbands in the audience, one thing I’ve learned from my long, long acquaintance with law enforcement is that it takes a special person to marry a cop -- a special person. (Laughter.) As my mother, Jean Finnegan, would say, no purgatory for you, dear. None. Straight to heaven. (Laughter.)
Because what you really do know -- and I’m joking but you know it’s true -- you know when you marry a cop, you’re marrying his or her job. You know it.
You sit on the steps holding your kids tight when the lights have gone out in the city, and you turn to your husband, and you say, go do your job. Go do your job.
All of you know and experience that every time your husband, wife, sister, brother, son or daughter pins on that shield and walks out the door. Whether it’s after tucking the kids in bed at night and giving them a kiss goodnight, whether it’s early in the morning, you all know.
And I know from a little experience you all worry about that phone call -- the phone call at that unexpected time when you shouldn’t be expecting a phone call, and the feeling that goes through you just for a second when that phone rings at that unexpected time. We owe you so much. We owe the families so much. The English poet John Milton once wrote, he said: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
Some of you have waited so long in such desperate circumstances. We can never repay you. There is no group of women and men more driven by a sense of loyalty and responsibility than the women and men we’re honoring here today.
You pursued a kidnapper in Phoenix, who was biking away with a terrified four-year-old girl. When that little girl was rescued, she went home and she said, “Daddy, daddy, guess what? The bad guy took me out of the house, but the police saved me.” The police saved me. The police saved me. (Applause.)
You do it every single day when no one hears about it, when no one knows. You had no idea when you started your shift that you’d be called upon to prevent a massacre at a Las Vegas shopping mall. But you all did with incredible professionalism.
There was no way you could have known that you’d have to shift from taking down a traffic complaint, to putting down an assassin intent on killing cops in the LA police station. But you did. You acted -- without hesitation.
When you answered the call for backup in Corpus Cristi, you couldn’t have possibly known you’d have to render medical assistance to a fellow officer while returning fire at the gunman. But you saved that officer. You stopped the suspect in spite of a bullet wound in your own leg.
Bullets didn’t stop you in the Brightwood neighborhood of Indianapolis either. You took cover, radioed critical information, and you took down a suspect in spite of having a gunshot wound in your own abdomen.
You acted as a team in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago to save a fallen captain who’d put himself in harm’s way to protect his fellow officers.
You took down a dangerous gunman without harming any civilians in a running battle through the streets of Dorchester. That's what you did.
You stared down a cop killer with an AK-47 in Norfolk; and a hatchet-wielding assailant in Queens.
You brought the heroism that earned you a Bronze Star in Afghanistan home to stop a mass shooting in Palm Beach.
Collectively, you’ve done all of these things and so many more that no one ever, ever, ever, ever hears about. You pull over somebody on a highway at 2:00 in the morning, a routine stop, you have no idea whether you're going to be handed a license or a Glock aimed at you. You get a call for a disturbance in a three-story walkup in the middle of the night, and you walk up, stop some poor woman from being beaten. And you have no idea what’s going to greet you on the other side of that door, but you open it, and you walk through. You're a remarkable, remarkable group of women and men.
And as you know -- because I’ve been with you for a long, long time -- we’ve all attended too damn many funerals together. And fortunately a whole lot more celebrations. And I find I get the same answer every time I say you, congratulations. Thanks for your courage. You all say essentially the same exact thing. You say, sir, just doing my job, sir. Just doing my job.
What a job. And what shape we’d be in as a nation if we didn't have you doing that job. We expect you to do everything. We expect you to be constitutional scholars. We expect you to have instantaneous reactions to a crisis without making any mistake, without knowing what’s behind that door, what’s in that guy’s pocket. And when you make a mistake, we come down on you like a ton of bricks. But you still do your job.
I try to explain to people -– because they know my relationship from the time I was a kid with law enforcement -- I try to explain to people that being a cop is not what you do –- it’s who you are. It’s who you are. It’s stamped into your DNA.
I don’t know each of you personally, but I know you. I know you well. You’re the same guys and women I grew up with in Scranton and Claymont who would always step in when a kid was being bullied, even if there were four guys. You’re always the guys no matter what the number, you jumped in, always having somebody’s back. You're the same ones after working all day go out and volunteer to line the Little League field when the season opens. You're the same guys who do fundraisers -- not just for your fallen officers you work with, but for victims and their families. Who else does that besides you?
Today we honor you not just because of your bravery but your professionalism, your commitment, your example. I can say without fear of contradiction I’ve always been proud to stand with you on this and any other occasion -- previous occasions at the TOP COPS Rose Garden ceremonies and dinners.
But I have to admit every year you've been kind enough to invite me, it’s always sort of bittersweet. Because I want to come and personally thank and honor those TOP COPS -- because although we honor these women and men, who are here because they're some of the bravest among us, some of the really bravest among us aren’t with us tonight. That's the bitter part.
Allen Beck; Igor Soldo, Las Vegas; Brian Jones, Virginia; Officer Casey Kohlmeier, Illinois -- they are not here to receive our thanks and our appreciation, although they're here. But I want to personally thank their families.
To Casey’s mom, Keri Jo, my heart aches for you. No parent should ever have their child predecease them. And to Riley, you know your brother is bone of your bone, blood of your blood. He’ll be in your life forever.
Just like you, Robert. Your brother died the way he lived -– serving and protecting.
Nicole, Andrea, Rebekah, I don't know quite what to say to you except that I really admire your courage being here today. All the cops in this room know how hard it is to be here. Because although you're proud of the service of your husbands and the sacrifices they made for their community, it’s bittersweet.
I know from experience because you relive the moment you got the call every single time. They're focused on it as if it was yesterday. And I also know from experience there’s nothing anyone can say or do that will ease that overwhelming sense of loss. There’s a headstone in Ireland that reads:
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal;
Love leaves a memory that no one can steal.
And I promise you, it may have already happened, but I promise you -- and I hope it’s happened already -- but I promise you the day will come when something will trigger the memory -- a smell, the way the lights shine in, a look on your child’s face, the way you open the bathroom door, something that reminds you of him. The day will come when that occurs and the first thing that will happen you’ll get a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye. That's when you know. That's when you know. That's when you know you're going to make it.
My prayer for each of you is that day will come sooner than later, but I promise it will come.
And I hope the families of the fallen take solace in the outpouring of love, affection, and gratitude that's on display today and back home. You now are locked in forever to this brotherhood and sisterhood, which you’d just as soon not be part of, but it’s real -- a brotherhood and sisterhood of law enforcement throughout the nation that will be there for you, for your children, for your family as long as you live.
My mom used to drill into her four kids -- me and my siblings -- she’d look at me and say, Joey, look at me, and she said, just remember you’re defined by your courage, and you’re redeemed by your loyalty. You're defined by your courage and redeemed by your loyalty.
I challenge anyone to think of a group of women and men who had more courage, had such an intense sense of loyalty, than all of the officers that we honor today. You all are a rare breed. And thank God for you.
May God bless you and protect you and every other law enforcement officer and their families until we meet again next year. God love you all. You're incredible. We owe you. Thank you. (Applause.)
8:11 P.M. EDT