Madam Speaker, police officers dedicate their lives to keeping our streets and communities secure. They selflessly venture into dangerous situations every day and put their lives on the line so that the rest of us can sleep safely. Houston Senior Police Officer Alphonso "Al" Amato, Jr., is one of those elite individuals, who dedicated his entire career to protecting the innocent from evil-doers.

Officer Amato enrolled in the Houston Police Academy in 1981. His first assignment upon graduation was with the Patrol Division of the Houston Police Department. One of his more notable experiences occurred when he was testifying against an aggravated robbery defendant in the 177th District Court. While he was testifying, the defendant jumped up and threw his chair at the prosecutor. Officer Amato responded, like any top-notch officer would, and without giving it a second thought, jumped up and immediately took the defendant into custody. He was later prosecuted as the trial continued.

Officer Amato has been responsible for removing dangerous outlaws from the streets of Houston. In 1983, he began working on cases involving juveniles and spent the majority of his career working in the Juvenile Division of the police force. While working in the Juvenile Sex Crimes Unit, he investigated more than 1,000 child exploitation cases. Time and again, he has successfully arrested the worst kind of criminal, the one who preys on innocent children.

He has a knack for difficult cases and has taken on the most challenging, where little or no information has been available. Each time, he managed to track down the criminals and bring them to justice.

Not only does Officer Amato have fine-tuned investigative skills, he is also known for his ability to manage a crime scene. He always kept order, even in the most difficult situations, while questioning the involved parties.

During his many years of dedicated service, he has received countless commendations, expressions of appreciation, Unit Citations, an FBI recognition for Task Force and Sting Operations, a U.S. Marshal recognition for Gang Task Force involvement and a Houston Fire Department recognition. He is also well respected throughout the community and among his peers.

Officer Amato's family has a history of service. His father served in the military. Before becoming a law enforcement officer, Officer Amato served in the United States Air Force in Vietnam for 4 years. After his time in the military, he joined the Federal Protective Services and was there until 1977, when he left to join the Chicago Police Department. He stayed in Chicago until 1981 and then began his career with the Houston Police Department. This year, he is retiring from a distinguished career after more than 26 years of service.

According to his fellow officers, Officer Amato served the citizens of Houston with pride, honor and commitment. He is known as an upstanding citizen, a patriotic American and a devoted law enforcement officer.

I would also like to recognize the contributions of Al's wife, Sandy, and daughter, Raven. I commend them for persevering over the difficult job of their loved one serving as a law enforcement officer. Many of the most successful officers have a significant family support system behind the scenes.

On the date of his retirement, March 21, 2008, I congratulate and thank Senior Police Officer Al Amato for wearing the badge of a Texas lawman with distinction while serving the people of Houston. Future law enforcement officers can learn by the example of Officer Amato and realize that one person truly can make a difference.

And that's just the way it is.