Remarks of the Honorable David J. Hickton
United States Attorney For The Western District of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania State Police Memorial Service
Good Afternoon.Thank you for attending this memorial service. Without question, I am in very good company today. I am in awe of the bravery, courage, commitment and selfless dedication of the law enforcement members who take an oath to serve and protect the people of this great Nation, this great State and in particular, this great District. It is an honor and a privilege to be part of a law enforcement family bound by common cause and rare courage. It is an even greater honor and privilege to be asked to speak here today.
Because of your efforts, National crime trends are heading in the right direction. The Department of Justice and the U. S. Attorney’s Office realize that progress does not come easily. Budgetary concerns often require you to accomplish more with less. The progress made, through your leadership, tireless work and tough decisions is the direct result of great–and all too often–ultimate sacrifice.
Since the first known line of duty death in 1791, more than 19,000 U. S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice. This year, September 11 will not only mark the 10th anniversary of the most egregious act of terrorism on American soil, but also the deadliest day in law enforcement history. Seventy-two heroic officers were killed that day while responding to that horrific attack on our Country.
A total of 1,626 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty during the past 10 years–an average of one death every 53 hours or 163 per year. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the number of law enforcement fatalities in 2010 increased nearly 40 percent compared to the previous year. Approximately one-third of those officer fatalities were caused by gunfire.
Here today, we recognize all State Police members who have been killed in the line of duty in the Troop B area. We also honor each and every officer who lost his or her life in the line of duty while individually serving and protecting their communities and collectively serving and protecting the rights of every person of this great Nation.
The brotherhood of officers has banded together on far too many occasions and mourned the losses of fallen heroes like Corporal Joseph Pokorny; Trooper Paul G. Richey; Officer Michael Crawshaw; Officer Eric G. Kelly; Officer Stephen J. Mayhle; Officer Paul J. Sciullo II; and Special Agent Sam Hicks.
We remember them and many others as not just our fallen heroes, colleagues and friends, but as fathers, mothers, siblings, sons and children. No words spoken can fill the voids left in the lives of their families and friends. And yet, we must all find solace in the fact that no act of violence can ever erase them from our hearts and minds. We remember. We will always remember.
Of the numbers stated earlier for officer fatalities in 2010, three of them were in Pennsylvania. Though that number is considerably less than the 19 line-of-duty fatalities for the same year in Texas, which tops the list–it is still three too many. I am certain every State shares my sentiment that one line-of-duty fatality is too many. The Department of Justice and our U. S. Attorney’s Office are committed to turning back the rising tide and meeting increased violence with renewed vigilance. We are committed to doing everything within our power to keep you and your colleagues safe.
Attorney General Eric Holder made a pledge to law enforcement some time ago on behalf of the Administration and The Department of Justice that “We got your back.” I reiterate that pledge to you here today.
Those who commit acts of violence against law enforcement will be pursued. They will be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.
We are committed to officer safety. In Fiscal Year 2010, the Department of Justice provided more than $40 million to officer safety programs. A large part of this investment was allocated to the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, allowing for the purchase of nearly 50,000 protective vests. Beginning with Fiscal Year 2011, the Department began requiring agencies who receive this funding to certify that they have a written “mandatory wear” policy in effect for uniformed patrol officers.
In furtherance of our commitment to officer safety, Attorney General Holder recently announced the Department’s new Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability initiative or VALOR. The VALOR initiative will enhance the Department’s work to prevent violence against law enforcement officers and reduce line-of-duty injuries and losses.
Through the VALOR initiative, the Justice Department is partnering with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (“IACP”), to support much-needed research and analysis of violent encounters, officer deaths and injuries. This information will be used to provide law enforcement with the latest information; most effective tools and training; and to respond to a range of threats upon law enforcement–including ambush-style assaults. VALOR also includes an award to develop training and technical assistance programs to help officers learn how to anticipate and survive violent encounters. This includes learning improved techniques for identifying concealed weapons and armed gunmen; confronting high-risk tactical situations; and confronting specific threat groups, including domestic and international terrorists, other violent criminals and extremists.
In addition to supporting your work, the Department of Justice and U. S. Attorney’s Office is also committed to supporting your families–especially in times of tragedy. In 2010, the Department of Justice awarded more than $2 million to Concerns of Police Survivors. For nearly three decades this organization has helped thousands of families of law enforcement who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. Concerns of Police Survivors is dedicated to helping those families heal and rebuild their lives. We are honored to support them and their dedicated volunteers nationwide.
While we believe these new investments are an important step forward, we are aware that addressing the challenges law enforcement faces requires more than simply moving money out the door. We are also focused on improving information sharing with and among our law enforcement partners.
The Law Enforcement National Data Exchange, or N-DEx, is the cornerstone of improving information sharing. This online system arms officers with critical, real-time information about suspects. In addition to developing this national resource, we are providing support to help you connect to it. N-DEx is a prime example of what we can accomplish when law enforcement works together across levels. We encourage and will continue to encourage the use of NDEx.
We will also continue to encourage more participation in the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, known as “NSI”. NSI is administered in partnership and coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and state and local law enforcement.
When NSI was launched in 2009, we were guided by three key principles: partnerships, prevention and the protection of privacy and civil liberties. By fostering increased partnership among law enforcement agencies, as well as privatesector entities, NSI is allowing officers to connect suspicious, but seemingly disparate, pieces of information. As a result, potential terror attacks are being identified and prevented. NSI’s strong privacy and civil rights protections are reenforcing the fact that effective security efforts need not compromise our most essential values.
We urge you to continue to make suspicious activity reporting a priority and common practice. The continued success of NSI depends upon the engagement of every department.
I want to assure you that not only does this Administration, the Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office have your back–we are committed to your safety. NEVER, EVER should you be a target of violence and harm. I commit to do everything I can to enhance the safety and protection of those who respond to calls of distress and protect our families and communities.
If there is any bright spot to be found through the tragedies of the lives lost that we honor here today and the far too many lost throughout the years, it is that they bring us closer together. It is our solidarity in mourning and commitment to honoring their lives that strengthens us to work together. Together we can strive toward ending violence against those who dedicate their lives to protecting our communities.
To those we honor here today who have made the ultimate sacrifice, the words thank you will never be enough, but we are so very thankful. To the families and friends of those we honor here today, we offer our eternal gratitude for sharing your loved one--and their special gift to serve and protect--with all of us. We extend to you our continued support and promise that their heroic and ultimate sacrifices will never be in vain. We will always remember.