May 15, 2018

Grassley on Police Week: Law Enforcement Deserves Respect, Support & Admiration

Prepared Floor Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On National Police Week
May 15, 2018
 
Mr. President,
 
There is no more noble sacrifice than laying down your life in the service of others. Every year, more than a million law enforcement officers work to keep our country safe and to serve the needs of our communities. Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line as they fight crime. And each year law enforcement officers die in the line of duty.
 
Many of these deaths occur while these officers are investigating crimes or enforcing our laws. Some are even the result of targeted violence against police officers. Other deaths involve tragic accidents, like Sheriff’s Deputy Julie Bridges and Sergeant Joseph Ossman, two police officers who were killed in a traffic accident while working to help their communities weather the onslaught of Hurricane Irma.
 
On Friday, I spoke at the Iowa Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony in Des Moines where we honored six law enforcement officers from Iowa who lost their lives in the line of duty. It was my honor to pay tribute to these brave Iowa heroes alongside their families. Losing members of our law enforcement leave a hole in families and communities that no one else can fill. But we can honor them, and remember them, and work to support the efforts of other law enforcement officers who carry on their mission. Officers who—despite the risk and the rigors of their work—work tirelessly to protect and serve their communities.
 
Yesterday, in the memory of those who have fallen in the line of duty over the past year, I was proud to introduce a resolution designating this week as National Police Week. This resolution is cosponsored by 76 of my Senate colleagues.
 
I am also working to clear the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act through the Judiciary Committee so that the bill can be sent to the floor for the consideration of the full Senate.
 
This bill authorizes a nationwide partnership between federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutors dedicated to the reduction of violent crime. This partnership will use evidence-based and data-driven approaches to policing.
 
It emphasizes initiatives designed to build trust and collaborate with community leaders and organizations to address violent crime. A companion bill is working its way through the House of Representatives. I look forward to voting to support it.
 
In addition, I've been a long-standing supporter of the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program, which provides death and education benefits to survivors of fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders, and disability benefits to officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty. 
 
I introduced a bill to strengthen the PSOB and that bill was signed into law last year. And we've worked hard on oversight efforts of the program to make sure that beneficiaries' claims don't linger forever, but are paid out timely. 
 
Today, as I stand on the Senate floor, my thoughts turn to my home state of Iowa, where on May 1, 2017, Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Burbridge went to work in Pottawattamie County. He and fellow Deputy Pat Morgan were assigned to transport a man to prison who had just been sentenced to 45 years for voluntary manslaughter. On the way from the court to the prison, the prisoner assaulted Deputy Burbridge with a homemade knife, grabbed one of the deputies’ guns, and shot both deputies.
 
Deputy Morgan was seriously wounded in the attack. Deputy Burbridge was critically injured, and died an hour later. The prisoner fled the scene, making it as far as Nebraska. Other brave law enforcement officials tracked him down and brought him to justice. 
 
Deputy Burbridge was a family man who loved to work on cars and motorcycles, fish, and tell jokes. He is survived by his wife Jessica, daughter Karley, son Kaleb, and stepdaughter Kelsey Brant. We mourn his loss and remember his legacy of sacrifice and service this week.
 
Our law enforcement officers in Iowa deal with many of the same problems facing the rest of the country. They work every day to stop violent crime, and they are on the front line of the fight against illegal drugs and the opiate addiction crisis. 
           
To help law enforcement officers in Iowa and in the rest of the country, we need to optimize our justice system so it puts resources where they are needed most. Law enforcement should target the worst offenders like violent criminals, major drug traffickers, and criminal masterminds. And we should do more to help those who have done their time reenter society in productive ways so they don’t slide back into a life of crime.
 
A bill I introduced this Congress, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, does just that. It improves fairness in sentencing while permitting law enforcement to devote resources to tackling their top priorities. It also increases incentives for criminals to cooperate with police and puts into place tougher criminal penalties for fentanyl distribution, terrorism, and crimes of domestic violence.
 
In addition, it provides for recidivism reduction programs to prepare inmates to leave prison and live a productive, law-abiding life. Similar sentencing and prison reform initiatives at the state level have closed prisons, reduced crime, and increased public safety. 
 
On a final note, I’d like to take a moment to thank the Capitol Police who serve right here in the halls of Congress. The President, the Vice President, cabinet secretaries and thousands of visitors from around the country visit the Senate every year. We senators come and go several times a day with our staff. It’s easy to take our feelings of safety and security for granted in the Capitol complex, but we are able to carry out our duties because of the continuous hard work of these officers. So, thank you to the Capitol Police for your dedication and service.
 
Our law enforcement officers deserve our respect, our support, and our admiration. We honor all law enforcement officers this week, especially those who died in the line of duty of the past year. We thank their families for their sacrifice, and we will remember the values of public service, diligence, and bravery that they stood for. 
 

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