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Public Papers - 1992

Remarks at the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony

1992-05-15

Thank you, Cyndi, very much. Thank you all. Cyndi, thank you. And may I salute our Attorney General who is doing an outstanding job for law enforcement, Bill Barr; the Members of Congress who are with us today; Adolph South; an old friend, Dewey Stokes; John Walsh; Suzie Sawyer; Barbara Dodge; Dave Derevere.

Ten years ago the FOP auxiliary began this nationally recognized service for law enforcement officers who gave their lives in the line of duty, and I salute you from the bottom of my heart. It is an honor to be with all of you to mark a day that celebrates America's finest.

Police work has been described as a thankless job. Well, I am here to say thank you on behalf of each American. We need you. We depend on you, and we cannot do without you. Yours is the priceless task of upholding good against evil. All of us saw sickening sights in Los Angeles of criminals breaking windows and burning buildings and looting businesses. But even worse was the looting of something harder to replace than merchandise, the stealing of something precious, stealing hope, promise, the future. This we cannot allow.

You know better than anyone, it is not just a privilege to support our law enforcement officers. Standing in Mount Zion Church right in the heart of south central L.A. just a few days ago, I spoke out there in support of law enforcement, and the place erupted into spontaneous applause. The people were applauding, those most severely affected -- but those were the ones that were doing this -- were most severely affected by the rioting and by the looting, and they were supporting the police officers. And that's the way it should be.

So, today I pledge this to you, to that thin blue line that separates good people from the worst instincts of our society, I pledge my continuing and full support. We must show less compassion for the criminal and more for the victims of crime. That is why we reauthorized the 1984 Victims of Crime Act and boosted its annual crime victims compensation assistance fund to 0 million. These dollars did not come from the taxpayers but from the criminals' fines and penalties. After all, crime should not pay; the criminals themselves should. And my administration has also acted to punish the hardened criminals, career criminals, under the Federal Armed Career Criminal Act. No seasoned criminal should walk free because we didn't take the law and our law enforcement officers seriously.

We have proposed billion for anticrime policies for fiscal year 1993, and that is up 59 percent in 4 years. We started Project Triggerlock and already thousands of gun-toting criminals have been charged, with a conviction rate of nearly 90 percent. And yet progress made is not mission accomplished. And so today I again call on the Congress to get with it and to pass our crime legislation. Let us back up our law enforcement officials with laws that are fair, that are fast, and that are final.

For more than 3 years I've asked Congress to pass a comprehensive crime package based on three simple principles: If criminals commit crimes, they will be caught; if caught, they will be tried; and if convicted, they will be punished. We need a crime bill which strengthens, not weakens, your ability to uphold our laws. And so I again appeal to the United States Congress: Send me a tough crime bill, one that will not weaken current law, one like the ``Crime Control Act of 1992,'' and I will sign it right away.

Let me take this opportunity to salute organizations like COPS, that Concerns of Police Survivors, who provide aid when it is most needed. COPS was founded in 1984 to have survivors help other survivors, and today they help 5,000 families nationwide as Good Samaritans to those who have lost a loved one.

Another Good Samaritan can be found right up here on our stage today. I'm talking about John Walsh, host of television's ``America's Most Wanted.'' Last Friday, the show celebrated its 200th capture of a fugitive of the law. Sadly, John knows firsthand about the horrors that crime can inflict upon parents and families and communities. His little boy, Adam, was abducted and murdered, and the killer has never been found. John could have shut himself off from the world. Instead he started ``America's Most Wanted,'' a show that helps law enforcement officers bring criminals to justice. John, we salute both what you are and what you do. Thank you. Thank you very, very much.

Let me close on a personal note. Some have called the Presidency the world's toughest job. Well, I think they're wrong. I believe police officers have the toughest job. Police work is not 9 to 5; it's full time. It is danger. It is fear. It is not knowing whether you will end your shift going home in a car or to the emergency room in an ambulance. It's populated by people willing to risk their lives to save ours, people who are part social worker and part soldier. It's a job that I sum up in two words: American hero.

Every day of every year you risk your lives so that Americans can proceed with theirs. You truly show what the Bible meant, ``Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'' I still have with me this badge. This is the badge of a fallen police officer, a New York cop that many of you all knew, Eddie Byrne. I keep it right there in my desk in the Oval Office. It's there every single day to remind me of this Nation's debt to those who serve. I will never forget, nor will our Nation.

Thank you for what you do for our country. May God bless each and every one of you officers, and especially may God bless those families who have lost loved ones as those loved ones served our great Nation. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:15 a.m. at the Sylvan Theater. In his remarks, he referred to Cyndi Calendar, auxiliary president, Fraternal Order of Police; Adolph South, chaplain, National Fraternal Order of Police; Dewey Stokes, president, Grand Lodge Fraternal Order of Police; Suzie Sawyer, founder, and Barbara Dodge, president, Concerns of Police Survivors; and Dave Derevere, International Police Chaplains.

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