Good afternoon. It is an honor to be here today.
National Police Week is a time for reflection and a time
for remembrance. A time to gather together to recognize those
men and women who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
But it is also a time to recognize those who have lost a
loved one—spouses and siblings, parents and children,
friends and colleagues.
The law enforcement officers we honor this week were dedicated
public servants. But they were much more than that to many
of you, and you bear their loss most deeply. An officer’s
family always pays the premium for freedom, justice, and
the rule of law—even at the greatest cost.
I want to talk for a moment about what we as leaders face
when an officer dies in the line of duty. There are few words
as feared in law enforcement as the words “officer
down.” And there are few crises as great as when we
lose one of our own.
We hope we never encounter a line of duty death. But we
must prepare for that day, and we must be ready to do what
is necessary for the surviving families and fellow officers.
We as leaders must provide strength and direction. We must
meet the many needs of police survivors, from notifying loved
ones to providing financial support, benefits information,
and grief counseling.
We must also consider the needs of our own personnel. Officers
often believe they are made of sterner stuff. They may feel
they have no time for grief or need for solace. For that
reason, they often fail to get the help they need. And if
they seek help, it may not be readily available.
The same is true for surviving family members. There is
a prevailing view that police survivors should be better
able to handle the death of a loved one. But it does not
matter if you know the inherent risks; the impact is the
same. You have lost someone you love.
The grieving process is further complicated by the fact
that when an officer dies, the loss is a public one. Family
members and colleagues may have to relive the trauma through
internal investigations, court proceedings, and media exposure.
In short, a police survivor’s grief is not just his
or her own; it is the department’s grief, the community’s
grief. And, at times, it is the nation’s grief.
We must recognize the importance of communication and coordination
following a line of duty death. We must set policies and
procedures to deal with these complex issues, to ensure that
no one falls through the cracks.
In the FBI, we are fortunate to have numerous resources
at our disposal. Mental health professionals, grief counselors,
trauma recovery experts, and chaplains stand ready to meet
with family members and FBI personnel in the aftermath of
Not all departments or agencies are able to provide the
same types or levels of support. For that reason, we offer
our services to all local agencies in times of crisis.
Regardless of resources, however, there must be a coordinated
response—one that does not end after the memorial service.
We have lost three agents in the past two years—Rob
Hardesty, of the Springfield, Illinois, field office; Greg
Rahoi, a member of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team; and
Barry Bush, of the Newark, New Jersey, field office.
The memorial services for these agents were powerful and
moving experiences—patrol cars and motorcycles rolling
through town, officers joined together in sorrow, regardless
of agency, department, or rank.
In few other professions is there such solidarity, particularly
on the darkest of days. Perhaps it is because law enforcement
officers know that when they say goodbye to their families
each morning, they may not return home at night.
I did not know Rob Hardesty, Greg Rahoi, or Barry Bush
personally, but I have come to know them through their families,
friends, and colleagues. These men put their lives on the
line each day, for their communities, for their countries,
and for the citizens they served.
We together have a responsibility to recognize the contributions
made by officers killed in the line of duty, an obligation
to support their family members and friends, to ease their
burdens if we are able and to help find meaning in these
On the National Law Enforcement Memorial website, there
are messages from police survivors to those they lost.
In one posting, a wife tells her husband that although
eight years have passed, the pain is still sharp. A son tells
his father that he is going to have a baby and asks his father
to help him make the right choices.
A child tells his father that he has been promoted to fourth
grade and that he misses him, especially on Father’s
Day. These messages are proof that life goes on, but that
loss does not disappear.
These individuals remind us of why we do what we do and
who we are sworn to serve and protect. And we, in turn, must
let them know they are not forgotten and that they are always
in our thoughts.
I want to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation
for the work of Jean Hill and Suzie Sawyer and their colleagues
at COPS. It is difficult to help those in the midst of such
traumatic events. But the staff and volunteers of COPS act
with true grace under pressure.
One particular example comes to mind. In June 2005, FBI
Special Agent Rob Hardesty was killed in a training accident.
When members of the Indiana chapter of COPS learned of Rob’s
death, they offered his wife, Toni, and their children, Sydney
and Carly, immediate assistance.
They helped Toni with the funeral arrangements. They lent
support and guidance when she needed it most. They gave the
Hardestys a shared community in which to grieve, with other
families who truly understood their loss.
They also encouraged Toni to take Sydney and Carly to the
COPS Kids’ Camp that July. Toni wrote the following
words in a letter to Suzie: “At this point, I was grasping
for anything that could possibly help my girls get through
this terrible tragedy. ... I remember walking into camp the
first night … looking at all the children and realizing
that my girls were not alone. Not only were they not alone,
it was obvious that these kids were thriving … in
spite of each tragedy these children represented.”
COPS is helping Toni, Sydney, and Carly rebuild their lives.
And they do the same with countless other families and fellow
officers across the country every day.
In the past 10 years alone, more than 1,600 officers have
been killed in the line of duty. That is more than 1,600
families to care for, to support, and to strengthen. We are
grateful for their many efforts.
* * *
Although it happened 21 years ago, I still remember the
day the space shuttle Challenger exploded, just
seconds after lift-off. After the explosion, we all watched
and waited, in silence, shock, and quiet disbelief.
In his speech to the nation that night, President Reagan
said, “We have never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps
we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of
the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of
the dangers, overcame them, and did their jobs brilliantly.
... They wished to serve, and they did. ... Their dedication
These words ring true today. With each officer we lose,
we face a new tragedy. And perhaps we forget the courage
it takes to patrol the streets each day, to investigate crime
and terrorism, to take down drug dealers, gang members, and
Your loved ones were aware of these dangers. They overcame
these dangers. And they did their jobs brilliantly. Their
dedication was complete.
Yet we cannot forget the courage it has taken for each
of you to carry on with your lives, to help others who are
suffering the same sense of loss, to be here this week to
honor your loved ones. Your dedication and your sacrifices
are also complete.
The legacies of those officers killed in the line of duty
live on, through those of you here today, and through their
fellow police officers across the country and around the
We will continue the work they began, but we will not forget.
We will recover, but we will not forget. We will move forward,
but we will not forget.
Thank you for having me here today. God bless.
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