President Obama honored the National Association of Police Organization's Top Cops award winners today at the White House, commending them for their "incredible acts of courage and quick thinking, which prevented harm and saved lives"
Twenty-six of honorees hailed from local law enforcement agencies in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Pennsylvania and seven were from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Obama was joined by Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder at the ceremony in the Rose Garden.
The president and vice president centered their remarks on the critical need for funding for law enforcement across the nation.
Biden spoke first and noted the president's commitment to law enforcement, as seen in the federal recovery act.
"Over $4 billion was placed in that emergency legislation to hire new officers, for new equipment such as bulletproof vests, and for new technologies, to give you the tools to do your jobs more safely and more efficiently," Biden said.
Obama specifically touted the $1 billion marked in the recovery act for the COPS program and another $2 billion in grants for police officers across the nation.
Obama said that in these tough economic times, a big concern is that state and local governments will be forced to lay off police officers – "even though we know that crime has a tendency to go up when the economy is in dire straits," he said, noting that it has happened in his hometown of Chicago.
"Police officers know better than anyone: A neighborhood that isn't safe is a neighborhood that isn't growing, that won't see old businesses hiring new workers, or new businesses opening their doors. You know how devastating crime can be; how it can shatter lives and undermine whole communities," he said.
Obama noted that at a police academy graduation ceremony in Columbus, Ohio in March, he addressed a group of 25 new police recruits whose jobs were saved by the stimulus bill.
"These new officers are now protecting the streets of Columbus because of those grants -- and there are similar stories being told in precincts all over America," he said.
Obama even aimed a zinger at Wall Street and Washington.
"[A]t a time when we face economic crisis born partially from irresponsibility on Wall Street and in Washington, I'm heartened by the folks who are standing behind me today who've demonstrated, with acts of selflessness and bravery, what it means to be responsible," the president said. "[W]hat it means to be a problem-solver, a mediator, an investigator, and protector all wrapped into one; what it means to wave goodbye to your families and start another shift unsure of how it will end; and what it means to put your life on the line for a partner or a stranger in order -- in other words, what it means to serve."
-- Karen Travers