President Joe Biden paid tribute to fallen officers at the National Peace Officers’ annual memorial service outside the U.S. Capitol.
Flags were flown at half-staff on Saturday, Oct. 16, as Biden honored the 491 officers who died on the job in 2019 and 2020 during the 40th annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service.
Biden acknowledged the difficult burden police officers have had to shoulder over the last few years.
“Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it’s ever been, and to the families of the fallen, you’ve suffered an enormous loss, but understand your loss is also America’s loss, and your pain is America’s pain,” Biden said.
Biden’s speech came just hours after three Texas deputy constables were ambushed and shot – one was killed.
Biden, who was joined by First Lady Jill Biden and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, pointed out the deadly year law enforcement had in 2020, and called for change.
“We’re waking up to the notion unless we change the environment in which the job can be done, we’re going to have trouble having enough women and men come forward to want to do the job.”
Biden also praised the Fraternal Order of Police union for being open to some reforms, and called for more resources for police departments to be able to engage with the community.
“It’s a hard time to be a police officer in America, so I want to make sure you have the tools to be the partners and protectors communities need,” he said.
The president also took the opportunity to remark on the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, addressing Capitol Police and D.C. Metro Police officers: “Because of you democracy survived, but only because of the women and men of the United States Capitol Police force, the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan police department and other law enforcement agencies, who once again, literally put their bodies on the line to protect democracy.”
The ceremony ended with a candlelight vigil attended by thousands at the National Mall. According to Fox News, more than 4,000 members of law enforcement and their families attended the vigil to mourn the loss of 701 officers who died over the past several years.
“Today we recognize the nobility of the law enforcement profession. We pay tribute to those who lost their lives in sacrifice of the safety of our communities, and we remember them,” DHS Secretary Mayorkas said.
The names of the 701 fallen officers were engraved into the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to join the other 22,611 fallen officers who have died in the line of duty over the course of U.S. history.