By Marc Robertson
Law enforcement representatives from sheriff’s offices, police departments, constabularies, state and federal agencies will meet this week for a candlelight vigil at the Laredo Energy Arena to commemorate Police Week and to pay respect to all those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
US President Barack Obama has signed a proclamation marking May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and dedicating the period through May 21 as Police Week.
“For generations, the brave women and men of our nation's law enforcement have answered the call to serve and protect our communities,” the President noted in his proclamation. “Enduring long shifts in dangerous and unpredictable circumstances, our nation's peace officers embody the courage and honor that represent the best of America.
“On Peace Officers Memorial Day and during Police Week, we express our gratitude for the selfless public servants who wear the badge and put themselves in harm's way to keep us safe, and we pay respect for those who lost their lives in the line of duty,” the President said.
The arena event will include law enforcement officers from across the region, with Laredo, Webb County, La Salle County and Texas Highway Patrol officers as well as elected officials, administrators and representatives of several other agencies in attendance. Guest speakers, a memorial candle lighting ceremony, and a phalanx of uniformed officers with their lighted patrol units will be highlights of the evening commemoration.
“In moments of danger and desperation, the first people we turn to are law enforcement officers,” President Obama said. “These often unsung heroes risk their lives and sacrifice precious time with loved ones so their fellow Americans can live in peace and security. But more than that, they are leaders in their communities, serving as mentors, coaches, friends, and neighbors - working tirelessly each day to ensure that the people they serve have the opportunities that should be afforded to all Americans.
“In honor of all they do, we must give these dedicated professionals the support and appreciation they deserve,” the President said. “My administration continues to work to ensure police departments and other law enforcement agencies throughout our country have the resources required to hire, train and retain officers, provide officers with modern and necessary equipment, and utilize technology to enhance their communication networks. Our Federal law enforcement officers regularly partner with their state and local counterparts to address some of our nation's most difficult problems.
“We know that strong community bonds are essential for law enforcement to do their jobs effectively,” President Obama said, adding that he established a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, “bringing together law enforcement, academia, youth, civil rights and community leaders to provide concrete recommendations to enhance public safety while building community trust.”
“Law enforcement officials care deeply about their communities, and together with our partners in law enforcement, we must work to build up our neighborhoods, prevent crime before it happens, and put opportunity within reach for all our people,” the President’s proclamation read.
“Each fallen peace officer is one too many,” President Obama said of the loss of law enforcement officers in the line of duty and the principal purpose of the Police Week Commemoration. The President signed bipartisan legislation in 2015 to enact the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National ‘Blue Alert’ Act, establishing communications network to disseminate information about threats to officers. The legislation seeks to ensure that appropriate steps can be taken as quickly as possible to provide for an officer's safety. The President has also promoted what he describes as “common-sense gun safety reforms to help keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
“The already dangerous job of an officer is far more dangerous than it should be because it remains too easy for criminals and people who are a danger to others or themselves to have access to guns,” the President said.
“It takes a special kind of courage to be a peace officer,” President Obama’s proclamation for the week read. “Whether deputies or detectives, tribal police or forest service officers, beat cops or federal agents, we hold up those who wear the badge as heroes. Though they too often spend their days witnessing America at its worst, in their extraordinary examples, we see America at its best. On this day and throughout this week, let us celebrate those who nobly serve each day - and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice - to move our world toward a more just and safe tomorrow.
“May we carry forward their brave and selfless spirit as we keep working together to shape a future worthy of their commitment.”