House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy gathered with other Republican lawmakers and police officers at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on Thursday morning of National Police Week to recognize the “incredible work our men and women in blue do for us.”
“We all want to show our gratitude for those who protect our communities each and every day, not just during National Police Week, especially when you think about the sacrifice that our law enforcement officers and their loved ones make to the communities to keep us safe,” McCarthy said. “Every year, hundreds of law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty. Their names are added to the National Police Memorial here in Washington, D.C., as an enduring tribute to the fallen and a place of comfort for those who are left behind.”
This year, which marks the 30th anniversary of the memorial honoring law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, 394 additional officer names were added to the marble wall. “Pause for one moment and think of that number — 394 more names,” McCarthy said. “Those could be mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children that are not coming home.”
This has been one of the “deadliest years in history for law enforcement,” said Marcia Ferranto, CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, who also made remarks at the wall Thursday. Ferranto added that more than 180 of those deaths were attributed to COVID, as officers “didn’t have the choice to shelter in place, but put their lives on the line to make sure our communities were safe.”
Not only did coronavirus heighten risks for police officers in 2020, but major unrest plagued city streets throughout the country for much of the last year. In response to the death of George Floyd in police custody in May of 2020, for which former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder last month, rioters lashed out, causing billions of dollars in damages and at least 47 fatalities. Up to 95 percent of the 2020 riots were linked to Black Lives Matter, and demonstrators and leftist politicians alike demanded the defunding of police.
“As a former police officer, I know firsthand how dangerous the job is,” said an emotional Rep. Pete Stauber, a former police officer who was shot in the line of duty and is now a Republican member of Congress. “I know what it is like to put on the uniform, kiss your family and kids goodbye, and head to work, uncertain what type of call or situation you will encounter that day. It is a hard job, it is a noble job, and it is an honorable profession.”
Stauber recounted his 23 years with the Duluth, Minnesota Police Department, calling his colleagues there “some of the most compassionate and honorable people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet,” who “became police officers because they love their community, and they want to make a difference.”
“That’s why it absolutely breaks my heart when I hear anti-police rhetoric and calls to defund the police. This kind of rhetoric is demoralizing and dangerous as it puts officers increasingly at risk. This reckless rhetoric cannot be tolerated,” Stauber said. “I will always have your back, and so will my Republican colleagues.”
Republicans recently introduced two pieces of pro-police legislation in the House, including Rep. Don Bacon’s new Back the Blue Act and former Sheriff and now-Rep. John Rutherford’s Protect and Serve Act, which previously passed the House with notable bipartisan support in 2018 with a vote of 382-35. Both bills crack down on perpetrators of violence against police officers with harsher penalties and new federal crimes.
“Now more than ever, Congress must show our gratitude for the service and sacrifice of our fallen heroes,” McCarthy said. “We should not talk about defunding the police. We should talk about providing what they need to protect us. We should not make politics out of security and safety for our communities. We should respect those who risk and give their life.”
“That is why I’m pleased to stand here today with my fellow House Republicans,” McCarthy said. “We know the issue before us, and we are ready and willing to act to support law enforcement, not just today, but every day, and just as we have in the past.”