American flags on Capitol Hill were lowered at half-staff this Sunday to mark Peace Officers Memorial Day. It was a small but profound gesture by House Speaker Paul Ryan during National Police Week.
“As tens of thousands of police officers and their families come to our nation’s capital to commemorate National Police Week, I want to thank those brave men and women who dedicate their lives to keeping our citizens safe,” Ryan said in a statement. “We must not forget—at a time when the very dignity of the profession is under attack—that police work is a heroic vocation, and the vast majority of police officers are real heroes. In a special way, we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice over the past year, like Trevor Casper and Ryan Copeland of Wisconsin. For Trevor, Ryan, and all of those who have fallen, I’ve ordered the flags to be lowered to half-staff this Sunday.”
Two police officers were shot in New Hampshire last week – an urgent reminder about the dangers our men and women in uniform face every day. Our lawmakers know that this reality demands more than just lowered flags – it requires some serious legislation.
The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2016 and the Federal Law Enforcement Self Defense Protection Act, both of which passed the House last week, would take concrete steps to ensure our police officers aren’t such vulnerable targets of civilians they have sworn to protect. The former bill, which acts as companion legislation to a bipartisan bill the Senate passed in January, helps state and local law enforcement agencies purchase bulletproof vests for officers in the field. The latter ensures officers have the same rights to carry a government-issued firearm during a covered furlough as they had before such furlough was in effect, according to the bill summary.
It’s unfortunate culture has reached a point where we even need legislation like this. The tension between police and civilians seems to have started in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 when angry protesters accused Officer Darren Wilson of killing a young African-American male named Michael Brown out of racism. Reports following the incident revealed the officer had acted out of self defense. Yet, that didn't stop the controversy from becoming a national issue and leading to a War on Cops.
Just this week, students at Portland State University staged a die-in as a means to disarm their campus police. Good for Congress for taking steps to protect our officers and reverse this moronic and frightening trend.
President Obama also awarded 13 law enforcement officers on Monday with medals of valor. The recipients demonstrated amazing courage by subduing violent gunmen, saving hostages, etc. A few of the medals were awarded posthumously.