FLOOR SPEECH: National Police Week
Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, this week, our Nation observes National Police Week. This year, during National Police Week, we pay tribute to 143 officers who died in the line of duty during 2016--among them, Sergeant Allen David Brandt of the Fairbanks Police Department. I come to the floor to acknowledge not only Sergeant Brandt but all those officers who served us so honorably.
Sergeant Brandt's wife Natasha and children, Fritz, Kate, Claire, and Belle have traveled all the way from Fairbanks to participate in the events this week. They are accompanied by Allen's best friend, Officer Phil McBroom of the North Pole Police Department, as well as a large group of colleagues from the Fairbanks Police Department, led by Chief Eric Jewkes.
Chief Jewkes, joined by Sergeant Lockwood and Officer Werner, came into Washington for Police Week in a somewhat unique way. They joined 2,200 officers from around the Nation in a 4-day charity bike ride from Northern New Jersey to Washington, DC. They call it the Police Unity Tour, and their motto is: ``We ride for those who died.''
Police Week begins with the dedication of names added this year to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on Judiciary Square. That dedication occurs during a very, very moving candlelight vigil at the beginning of Police Week. The candlelight vigil was conducted on Saturday evening on the National Mall this year.
Chief Jewkes, in full uniform, read Allen's name before a crowd numbering 10,000 people or more. A bell was rung, acknowledging the loss of Allen David Brandt. Allen's name was the only Alaska name added to the wall this year.
I wish to thank Craig Floyd, who is the president of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, for the courtesy in affording Chief Jewkes this special honor.
Allen's name is now inscribed in perpetuity on the memorial wall among the 21,000 officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. His name appears on the bottom of Panel 21-East. This week, the shoulder patch of the Fairbanks Police Department is affixed at the top of that panel. Quite coincidentally, a few lines up on that same panel are the names of Officers Matt Tokuoka and Anthony Wallace of the Hoonah Police Department, who were brought down by an assailant's bullet in 2010.
During Police Week, we do not dwell on the circumstances under which law enforcement officers gave their lives. We rather focus on how they lived their exemplary lives, and, yes, we pay our respects to the fallen, but Police Week also looks forward. The annual survivor's seminar, sponsored by Concerns of Police Survivors, which helps those who have suffered a law enforcement tragedy grieve and ultimately recover, is an important part of this week as well.
While so much of Police Week is for the law enforcement family, those of us in Washington cannot help but notice what is going on around us--officers in uniform, honor guards, motorcycles, police cars from around the country, the entire law enforcement family--Federal, State, local, Tribal, and visiting officers from places like Canada, England, and Israel.
Many visiting officers bring their spouses. Some bring their children. We are able to truly see the faces behind those uniforms and those badges, and we can look into the eyes of the families.
Let me say a few words about the children who have come in for the observance. You see them on the Metro, sitting atop their father's shoulders. Daddy is wearing his dress uniform. At the candlelight vigil, one of my staff members witnessed a U.S. Park Police officer, in uniform, explaining to her young daughter the meaning of the ceremony. You experience the words of the children at the memorial wall itself, where Emma Moody, the 10-year-old daughter of a fallen California officer, left a hand-drawn memorial to her dad, and it reads:
When I get to heaven the first thing I am going to do is find you. The second thing I will do is never ever let you go again.
When you experience things like this, you cannot help but appreciate the humanity behind the uniforms--a father, a mother, an aunt, an uncle, a friend, a colleague, a neighbor. Law enforcement is no stranger to controversy. Yet it is so important that we see beyond controversy; that when we look at an officer we see the humanity that runs toward danger and not from it; the humanity that responds to every call for service, not knowing whether it will be the last; the humanity that kisses a child goodbye before beginning a shift, not knowing whether he will ever see those children again; the humanity that was Allen Brandt.
The story I just recited is Allen's story. Allen was released from the hospital after being shot five times by an assailant. He died from complications associated with a second series of surgeries.
Allen lived long enough to appear before the Fairbanks City Council and thank the community for their support. He also offered some very cautionary words. He said:
Our officers do a very hard job, most of the time thankless. Working weekends when their friends are with their families. Working nights and sleeping during the day. We need your support and not just when bad things happen.
A few weeks later, Anchorage Police Officer Arn Salao thought he was responding to a call involving a dispute between a cabdriver and his passenger. When he arrived at the scene, he was ambushed and shot four times. Miraculously, Officer Salao survived his injuries.
In spite of these tragedies, it is dispiriting that people continue to challenge law enforcement. Last week, Colonel James Cockrell, retired after 30 years with the Alaska State Troopers, and just prior to his retirement, reflected on the dangers troopers face. Assaults on Alaska State Troopers are up, from 52 in 2013 to 131 last year.
I wish to share with the Senate a few lines from an interview with KTUU in Anchorage. Colonel Cockrell said:
I think there's generally a little bit less respect for law enforcement. I think a lot of that spurred from the Lower 48. We're having troopers contact people in a one-on-one situation. Individuals are more apt to fight with us if they think they have an advantage, when we don't have backup. We don't have two or three troopers responding to a high risk crime in progress. The consequences are that people are more apt to fight with our Troopers.
All of this is deeply tragic. As I look across the Nation, we are not really seeing any signs of abatement. Some might be attributable to the opioid crisis, some to a loss of respect for law enforcement, and some simply because suspects challenge law enforcement in hopes of evading them.
This year, law enforcement has already suffered 48 line-of-duty deaths, 17 of those from gunfire. This fact is not lost on the officers from Interior Alaska who are in our Nation's Capital this week. It is not lost on those who are considering law enforcement careers but decide to perhaps take a pass, leaving critical vacancies in agencies throughout the country. Law enforcement remains very dangerous work, and for all the satisfaction that comes from serving people in their darkest moments, there are no guarantees the officer will return home.
I hope that, during this National Police Week and throughout the year, we will reflect on Allen Brandt's final words: ``Law enforcement needs our support and not just when bad things happen.''
In these times, law enforcement needs that support now more than ever. On behalf of my Senate colleagues, I offer my continued condolences to Natasha Brandt and her family, to Allen Brandt's colleagues, and to survivors of law enforcement tragedies everywhere.