I appreciate[Congressman Reicherts]service in the House but also in your other career as a sheriff. I'm sure, based upon the information we know about you, Sheriff, when you left the State of Washington and came to the House of Representatives, the criminals were probably cheering that you had left town and you were coming to Washington, DC. But I want to thank you and the other several individuals in the House of Representatives who served in law enforcement prior to coming to the House of Representatives.
This week is Police Week, May 11 through the 17th. I am proud to be the author of House Resolution 1132 to designate May 15 of this year as Peace Officers Memorial Day so that we can honor all Federal, State, and local peace officers killed in the line of duty or disabled in the line of duty.
As you have mentioned, Sheriff, thousands of local, State, and Federal law enforcement officers across the country are injured every year. Almost 60,000 a year are injured in the line of duty. Many others are also killed in the line of duty.
Peace officers selflessly protect our communities and our property regardless of the dangers they face. Every day when they get up, they pin that badge or star on, and they go on patrol throughout this country, they always put their life on the line for the rest of us. There are almost 1 million sworn peace officers in the United States today.
When I came to Congress, I was the author and founder of the Victims' Rights Caucus. This bipartisan group advocates not only on behalf of crime victims but peace officers as well, to give bipartisan support for the work that peace officers do because many of them also become victims of crime.
You mentioned that you spent 33 years in law enforcement. I saw it probably from the other position. You used to catch them and I used to prosecute them, so to speak. I spent 8 years prosecuting criminals in Houston, Texas, and left the District Attorney's office and became a judge in Houston for 22 more years, hearing only criminal cases, hearing some 25,000 cases during that period of time. And I saw firsthand how police officers became victims of crime. During my years as a prosecutor, I knew several peace officers that were injured or killed in the line of duty. And since the first recorded police death in 1792, there have been almost 20,000 officers killed in the line of duty in the United States. Of course, the deadliest day in law enforcement history was September 11, 2001, when 72 officers were killed responding to international criminal attacks against the United States. Last year 181 officers were killed. That's 30 more than in 2006.
Law enforcement officers are also frequently the victims of assault. They continue to be assaulted day in and day out. And it's not part of their duty and job to be victims of assault. But as you mentioned, many times they take it because that's what they do.
Here in Washington, DC., we have the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. This memorial lists the names of brave men and women who have died in the line of duty, and every year more names are added to that memorial, and every year more families suffer the rest of their lives for being a victim of crime and the loss of their loved one.
This year, in 2008, Texas has the highest number of law enforcement officers that have been killed, with Georgia being second. Ranking in the States, California has lost the most, Texas the second most, and New York the third most since we have been recording the number of officers killed. This week allows us an opportunity to pay tribute to these brave men and women who are no longer with us because they protected our communities.
Texas has a high number of officers who have been killed because of the unique problem we have with illegal trespassers and that epidemic that is occurring on our southern border. You can open a newspaper almost every week in Texas and read about some illegal trespasser committing a crime, and too often that crime is against a peace officer. Right now, as we are here tonight, down in Houston, Texas, an illegal trespasser by the name of Juan Leonardo Quintero-Perez, who had already been deported from this country once for child molesting, came back into the United States and was arrested by Houston Police Officer Rodney Johnson for a routine traffic stop. But Officer Johnson was the victim of a crime because this illegal criminal shot Officer Johnson four times in the back of the head. His wife was also a Houston police officer. Now they mourn his loss while the killer is on trial for capital murder, too often ascenario that occurs here in the United States.
This week also there is another group that is meeting, and the name of this organization is Concerns of Police Survivors, or COPS, as it's called. They have their National Police Survivors' Conference this week, and it's an organization of 15,000 families of law enforcement officers that were killed in the line of duty, and they are meeting this week to honor the loss of their loved ones and peace officers throughout the United States.
It is important that we in Congress recognize the work that peace officers throughout the United States do on a daily basis. They don't get much recognition, and it's our responsibility to make sure that we are their advocate and we're their voice.
When I was growing up in Texas, before we moved to Houston, we lived in a small town called Heidenheimer. You've never heard of it, Sheriff. But occasionally we would go to the biggest town in our area, Temple, Texas. And once I was there with my dad watching a parade, and I noticed that there was an individual standing on the side at the curb not involved in the parade, just watching the parade. And, of course, that was a local Temple police officer. And back in those days, they didn't wear uniforms. They just wore a cowboy hat and a white shirt and a star, as some of them still do. And I was 5 or 6 years of age. And I remember my father told me, because he noticed I was watching this individual, he said, "If you are ever in trouble, if you ever need help, go to the person who wears the badge because they are a cut above the rest of us."
Now, those words were true many, many years ago when I was a kid, but they are true today as well. People still, when they're in trouble, when they need someone to help them, they go to peace officers, those individuals who wear the badge, because they are the last strand of wire between the law and the lawless, and they protect us from those who wish to commit crimes against our community. They are all that separate us from the barbarians, if you will. And we honor them for wearing the badge of an American peace officer.
When September 11, 2001, occurred, all Americans remember what they were doing that morning. I was driving my jeep to the courthouse, and I was listening to the radio, and it was interrupted, and we heard about an airplane that crashed into the World Trade Center. And as I continued driving to the courthouse, we heard about a second plane that crashed into the World Trade Center, the second tower. And then another plane crashing in Pennsylvania because of some heroes on that plane, and the fourth plane crashing not far from here, into the Pentagon.
And later that evening, as most Americans were watching television, as I was, while peace officers like yourself, Sheriff, were out doing your duty on patrol, I noticed that there were thousands and thousands of people. When those planes hit the World Trade Center, thousands of people were running as hard as they could to get away from that crime in the skies.
But there was another group, not near as many, but they were there anyway, a small group, that when those planes hit the World Trade Center, they were running as hard as they could to get to that crime scene. Who were they? Emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and peace officers. And 72 of those peace officers gave their lives that day.
And while it's important that we remember the 3,000 that were killed on 9/11, it's equally important we remember those that lived because peace officers and other first responders gave their lives so they could live and are living today.
So it's important that we honor our peace officers because they are, as my dad said many, many years ago, "a cut above the rest of us."
And that's just the way it is.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH