05.09.08

The Passage Of A Resolution To Honor The Sacrifices Made By The Men And Women Who Serve As Law Enforcement Officers

Leahy Invites Vermont State Police Lieutenant To Testify Before Panel Hearing To Be Part Of National Police Week Events On Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (Friday, May 9, 2008) – Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has invited a lieutenant with the Vermont State Police to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing to be held Tuesday, May 13, on Capitol Hill. 

The hearing will focus on the importance of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act, a program authored by Leahy that has granted millions of dollars for law enforcement agencies across the country to buy lifesaving bulletproof vests for their officers.  Lieutenant Michael Macarilla of the Vermont State Police will testify about the benefits of the grant program.  Macarilla is expected to arrive in Washington early next week with a team of law enforcement officers participating in thePolice Unity Tour, a program established in 1997 to raise awareness and to honor law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.  The Tour will arrive in the nation’s capital Monday.

The Senate Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution introduced by Leahy last month to designate May 15, 2008, as Peace Officers Memorial Day.  Leahy expedited the Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the resolution, which was reported by the Committee Thursday morning, in advance of National Police Week.  Thousands of law enforcement officers from across the country are expected to arrive in Washington next week to honor the men and women who serve their states and local communities. 

The hearing will also feature another witness with Vermont connections:  David Azur, a Detective with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, is the son of a formerVermont police officer, and spent his childhood in Vermont.  Azur has firsthand experience with the importance of wearing a lifesaving bulletproof vest.  While working for the Baltimore Countypolice department, a suspect shot Azur at point blank range; he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Last year, Leahy introduced bipartisan legislation to give the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the Department of Justice the discretion to grant waivers or reductions in the match requirements for bulletproof vest awards to state and local law enforcement agencies that can demonstrate fiscal hardship. Since 1999, this program has distributed $234 million to the States, and has assisted in the purchase of an estimated 818,044 armor vests that are keeping America’s police officers safer.  The Judiciary Committee is expected to consider the legislation in a business meeting Thursday.

Also during National Police Week, Leahy is expected to introduce legislation to reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act.  Since 1999, when the program was first created, states have received more than $230 million to purchase more than 818,000 armor vests.  The program funds up to 50 percent of the cost of replacing or purchasing new vests.  The program is required to fully fund the 50 percent of requested vest needs for jurisdictions with populations below 100,000, and the remaining funds are distributed to jurisdictions of over 100,000.  Vermont police and sheriffs’ offices have purchased almost 2700 vests since 1999.

The May 13 hearing, “The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program: Protecting Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers” will be held at 9:30 a.m. in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate OfficeBuilding.  The hearing is open to the press.  It will be webcast live online at: http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearing.cfm?id=3343.  

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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy
On The Passage Of A Resolution To Honor The Sacrifices Made
By The Men And Women Who Serve As Law Enforcement Officers
Senate Floor

May 8, 2008

National Peace Officers
Memorial Day
Resolution

 Today the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously reported Senate Resolution 537 to the Senate floor.  In recognition of those officers who lost their lives in 2007, the full Senate has now passed this resolution.  I thank Senators Specter, Kennedy, Durbin, Kohl, Feinstein, Schumer, Hatch, Whitehouse, Biden, Cardin, and Baucus for joining me in sponsoring this resolution.  And I thank the full Senate for showing its strong support and appreciation of America’s law enforcement officers by unanimously passing this resolution.  It is something in which we can all take pride. 

 Last year, in 2007, 181 law enforcement officers died while serving in the line of duty.  That is a regrettable and significant increase from just one year earlier.  Tragically, it is the most line-of-duty deaths since 2001 and the losses from September 11 of that year.  The magnitude of this loss should remove any doubts in Congress that it is necessary to give these men and women everything they need to stay safe, and to do their jobs as effectively as they can.

 Currently, more than 900,000 men and women who guard our communities do so at great risk.  Since the first recorded police death in 1792, there have been more than 18,200 law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  There is lots of talk about the war on crime.  Our law enforcement officers are all too often the casualties in that effort, and the officers who lost their lives in 2007 are a stark reminder that we must not let up in our support of those who work day-in and day-out in the service of their communities and fellow citizens. 

 I also take this opportunity to recognize that the names of 358 fallen officers will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on May 13 during a candlelight vigil that will be held in their honor.  These are officers from the past and present whose memory will be preserved at the Memorial, ensuring that their bravery and sacrifice will not be forgotten.     

National Peace Officers Memorial Day provides the people of the United States, in their communities, in their State Capitals, and in the Nation's Capital, with the opportunity to honor and reflect on the extraordinary service and sacrifice given year after year by those members of our police forces.  More than 20,000 peace officers are expected to gather in Washington in the days leading up to May 15, to join with the families of their fallen comrades.  It is right that the Senate show its respect on this occasion, and I thank all Senators for joining me in honoring their service and their memory by approving this bipartisan resolution.

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