Remarks by the President and the Vice President Honoring the National Association of Police Organizations TOP COPSMay 20, 2014
5:39 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the White House. I especially want to welcome my old friend, Tommy Nee, and Bill Johnson and everyone in the National Association of Police Organizations. Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by saying congratulations to all of you assembled behind us.
It’s a genuine honor to be in the presence of the “best of the best.” Each year you guys come down here -- and, Tommy, you bring down the best -- and you're an inspiration. You're not only an inspiration to us, but you're an inspiration to all your fellow law enforcement colleagues all across the entire country.
And the President and I, we recognize the bravery that you display simply by putting on that shield every morning. That, all by itself, is an act of bravery. Strapping on your sidearm, kissing your husband or your wife goodbye at the door, walking out knowing -- because most of you are experienced -- knowing that you don't know with any degree of certitude what’s about to greet you. You have no idea -- except some of it may not be good.
The officers we have here today have been singled out for going above and beyond the call of duty, and we commend each and every one of them. And from my perspective, there’s no greater honor that a law enforcement officer could have than being recognized and nominated by his fellow officers -- because you all know what real courage is. You all know what kind of steel in your spine it takes to make the decisions that the men standing behind me have made.
We also know that there are thousands and thousands of more law enforcement officers out there on the job today and every day who are taking risks that are hard for ordinary people to imagine. They take risks to protect the community, protect the people they don't know, protect people they’ve never met. But they go out there and you all do it anyway, regardless of whether or not -- where they’re from, who they are, whether you know them or not.
And today is a day for them as well, all those officers -- a day that every man and woman in uniform should feel extremely proud -- proud of themselves, not just the men and women standing behind me. Today is a day the entire community of police officers should understand that America appreciates what you're doing, that this President and I appreciate what you're doing.
We owe the families, because every single day, as I said, you kiss your husband or wife goodbye, your son or your daughter, you know there’s that little, nagging feeling inside you -- that nagging feeling that I wonder what’s going to be meeting them today. And that's a sacrifice. It's a sacrifice that goes without adequate recognition.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's my great honor and privilege to present to you a man who fully recognizes that sacrifice, who’s committed to law enforcement in his bones. And every action he has taken as President has been designed to protect those of you behind the shield, and the shield in front of the families that they represent.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's my honor and privilege to present to you the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. It is a great honor to be here -- one of my favorite events that we do every single year. And let me start by thanking Joe Biden not only for being a great Vice President -- which he is -- but also being a lifelong friend of law enforcement. (Applause.) Now, he and I have a special reason for loving law enforcement, because we have the unusual privilege of being surrounded by law enforcement every minute of every day. (Laughter.) And they also protect the people we love most in the world -- our families. So we’re incredibly grateful to them and to all the law enforcement officers who serve and protect families and communities across the nation every single day.
Some of the public servants who make sure America’s police officers have what they need to do their jobs are also here today, and I just want to recognize them briefly. First of all, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is here. (Applause.) Attorney General Eric Holder is here, as well. (Applause.) Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is here. (Applause.) And I want to thank everybody from the National Association of Police Organizations, including your outstanding president, Tom Nee. (Applause.)
But, most of all, we’re here to welcome and congratulate our guests of honor, America’s Top Cops of 2014, and to thank their families -- their spouses, moms, dads, sons, daughters who love and support these heroes every single step of the way. So give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) We know it takes a lot of courage to be a cop, but it also takes a lot of courage to love a cop -- (laughter) -- and to send them off to work every single day with a hug and a prayer for their safety. So all of you are heroes in my book, as well.
The 53 officers, detectives, patrolmen, special agents, and troopers that we celebrate today are America’s Finest -- the best of the best. They hail from different parts of the country, and different events brought them here today. But they share one important thing in common. When the moment came -- when the shooting started, or a bomb went off, or a hostage was taken, or a child screamed for help -- they did not hesitate. They went into action. They ran toward the danger -- not away from it. And they risked their lives to save the lives of others.
Now, I got a chance to spend a little time with these guys before they came out here. When you talk to them -- and this has been true every time we’ve done this, every single year -- they’ll always say, I was just doing my job, insisting that they didn’t do anything extraordinary. And they’re right about one thing: There are heroes in every force, in every city, in every town across the nation. And everyone standing up here owes something to police officers who aren’t here, somebody who pushed them to do their best and had their backs when they needed it. So this is also a celebration for all law enforcement who are doing their jobs out there bravely and diligently, and we want to thank them for keeping us safe.
Having said that, even if these guys won’t admit it, there is something special about these guys. This is the sixth year that I’ve welcomed Top Cops to the White House, and every year, their stories are incredible. There are no exceptions.
There’s somebody on the loose here! (Laughter.) Oh no! She was making a break for it. (Laughter.) That was great. Did you see her?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I saw her. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: She was moving.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: She could move quickly. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Here are some of the reasons these officers are here today.
Surviving a violent ambush in the pitch-black woods while confronting an escaped felon convicted of sexual assault.
Engaging in hand-to-hand combat to take down someone seen trying to blow up a gas station near a major international airport.
Storming an underground bunker to rescue a kidnapped five-year-old boy.
Braving a hail of gunfire to protect victims of domestic violence.
One of these officers, in protecting the public, took out a suspected cop-killing bank robber with what was described as a one-in-a-million shot. Another stopped a shooter by returning fire through the windshield of his patrol car -- while making sure to wear his seat belt. (Laughter.) One jumped a fence during his own Father’s Day celebration when a boy screamed that someone was trying to kill his mom. He saved both the mother and her son -- and now that little boy says he’s thinking about becoming a cop as well.
And there are officers here who were in the thick of two attacks last year: the shooting at the Washington Naval Yard and the bombing at the Boston Marathon. On those awful days -- and we all remember them -- amid the smoke and the chaos, the courage of these officers shone through. And their quick thinking and level-headedness undoubtedly saved lives. Their willingness to put themselves in danger to protect others answered the prayer of Americans watching all across the country.
So heroism like this can come with great sacrifice. Some of the officers here today sustained serious injuries in the line of duty. They were shot or stabbed. Some lost friends, even a partner. Some are still recovering.
There’s one person who should be here today but isn’t -- Officer Dennis Simmonds of the Boston P.D. Last year, Officer Simmonds was injured in an explosion during that gun battle after the Boston Marathon bombing. And just a few weeks ago, he died while on active duty. Dennis’s partner, Officer Jean Gerard Jean-Louis, is here. So are members of his family, including his parents, Dennis and Roxanne. And our sorrow at your loss is matched only by our gratitude for your son’s service and sacrifice. I told the family before I came out here he will not be forgotten.
So what these officers do is dangerous. They do it because it’s important. Maintaining the public safety is the foundation of everything that is good that happens every single day in America. It’s why parents can send their kids to school and adults can head off to work, and community centers and houses of worship can open their doors to one and all, and businesses can start and thrive. And that’s why people can cast their votes and express their views without fear. It’s one of the reasons people travel and do business in these United States.
And that’s why Americans everywhere owe a debt to our nation’s law enforcement. And we have to do our part by making sure all of you have the resources and protections and support that you need to do your job well. That’s our end of the bargain. That’s what I’m going to keep on fighting for every day that I have the honor of serving as your President. And that’s what Joe Biden is going to work every day as long as he has the honor of serving as your Vice President.
So on behalf of all the American people, thank you. There are people alive today because of you. You may not even know their names, but we do, and we’re proud of you.
God bless you. God bless your families, and God bless the United States of America. Please give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
5:51 P.M. EDT