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David R.
Republican WA 8

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  • Recognizing Our Law Enforcement Agencies

    by Representative David G. Reichert

    Posted on 2015-01-27

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    REICHERT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to take some time on the floor of the United States Congress--the House of Representatives, to be specific--to honor and recognize the service of our law enforcement agencies across this great country.

    You know, we have been dealing with the reactions from the tragic death of Michael Brown last August. Almost continually, every week, we hear of some tragic death, a shooting incident across this country. And we all understand and realize that all loss of life is a tragedy, but there has been an outbreak of violence across this great country that is equally disturbing, resulting in the brutal assassination of two law enforcement officers just before Christmas.

    Mr. Speaker, I was a law enforcement officer for 33 years in King County, which is a county in Seattle, Washington. I started when I was 21 years old in 1972. I worked in a police car, and I was a detective. I worked the street undercover for a short time. I never knew when I left home if I would see my family, when would be the next time that I would see my wife, my children. When I told them good-bye for a day at the office, I didn't know if I was coming back home and neither did they. But every law enforcement officer across this great country lives with that knowledge, and every family member lives with that fear.

    I have missed holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. I would be called out in the middle of the day or the middle of the night or on the weekend. I remember one day missing my daughter's birthday. On Christmas Eve, I remember driving around in the middle of the [[Page H627]] night patrolling, while others had their relatives parked in their driveways; and they were in, sharing Christmas dinner and presents with their family and friends.

    But once a cop, always a cop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I have been in Congress for 10 years, but I was a cop for 33 years.

    A lot of people think ``cop'' is a derogatory remark, but it is actually a badge of honor. I was the sheriff for the last 8 years of my career. One thing I said when I left, if the members of the King County Sheriff's Office, which are nearly 1,100--it is the 12th largest sheriff's office in the country--said that Dave Reichert was a great cop, that is what meant the world to me.

    {time} 1745 If they said I was a good sheriff, that was icing on the cake, but I just wanted to be known as a good cop working my district and my beat and doing the job that I was trained to do and serving the public.

    Police officers do what they do because they care. They go to work every day because they want to save lives, not to take lives. They put up with ridicule and harassment, assaults, and even the ultimate sacrifice--death--always facing dangerous situations, putting their lives between their communities--the public--and danger.

    Sometimes, as I said, the ultimate sacrifice is made. During my career, I lost a partner and a good friend who was shot and killed in 1982. In 1984, I lost another partner and a good friend who was stabbed to death with a sword.

    These men died serving and protecting their community, but they left behind family. They left behind sons, daughters, spouses, orphaned children, and widowed. The men and women who keep us safe find themselves in life-and-death situations far too often. In many instances, Mr. Speaker, taking down a bad guy means losing a good guy too.

    Life-and-death situations are never easy. I remember one instance that I was working plainclothes and went in with a group of my team of officers on a drug search warrant. I was the sergeant leading that team.

    My assignment was to go in the front door, turn to the right, and make sure that the bathroom in that small apartment was secure. We went in the front door. I kicked in the bathroom door, and I found a person sitting on the toilet.

    As he stood, he revealed that he had a rubber band around his bicep and a heroin needle stuck in his arm. I could see that his eyes were glazed over. I told him to raise his hands; instead of doing that, he grabbed a gun.

    Now, Mr. Speaker, I could have shot that man. In a split second, he grabbed a gun, and my life was in danger, but I had a feeling I could talk him out of that gun. I just had a feeling I could reason with this man, even though he was high on heroin.

    I didn't shoot, and I was able to talk him out of his gun. In fact, he dropped it in the toilet. What would you do, Mr. Speaker, if you were standing there with that decision? In an instant, you had to make a decision: shoot or don't shoot.

    Our men and women who wear uniforms every day have to make that split-second decision. Now, they don't always make the right decision, but more often than not, they do. The men and women in uniform across this country are human beings, and they make mistakes, as we all do; we need to understand that.

    When the mistakes are made, police officers expect to have scrutiny applied. They expect oversight, they expect to have the action they took reviewed, reviewed, and reviewed, and they respect the rule of law, the process of the review, the investigation, and the judicial process that needs to take place.

    As all Americans across this country, we need to recognize that process too. Reacting to bad situations by disregarding the rule of law only makes things worse in this Nation. It creates harm in our communities, rather than harmony. Everyone must come together.

    Communities and law enforcement should be partners, protecting our families. Communities and law enforcement should be partners. Just as I was a partner with my partners that I spoke about earlier, communities should be our partner, law enforcement's partner.

    What do good partners do? They trust each other. Communities must trust their police department. The police department and the sheriff's office must trust the community, work with one another, and depend on one another.

    I think, Mr. Speaker, if we do that, if we can stop for a moment, listen to the facts, and respect the law that exists here in the United States of America--the greatest country in the world--yeah, we are not perfect, but we have the best system.

    If we all come together and recognize we have the best system--and where it needs to be changed, let's change it--but as the process goes through, let's respect it. If we do that together, Mr. Speaker, we can continue to live in the greatest country in this world.

    I want to conclude my opening statements just by saying that I really think it is important for us across this Nation to pause and remember to thank our law enforcement officers.

    Every time we see a cop, let's say thank you. It is just one of ways that we can support them and show that support, but I think, even more importantly, let's pray for them and pray for their families, but let's also pray for the communities that they serve, that the communities see the tough job they have to do and the sacrifices they make.

    Pray for peace, understanding, cooperation, trust, and let's pray, Mr. Speaker, that we have a partner in each other, a partner that we can trust that will back us up. Law enforcement backing up the community and the community backing up the police officers, that is where I would like to see this go, Mr. Speaker.

    We have some other Members here tonight who want to share their comments about their community and their relationship with law enforcement.

    I yield to the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Byrne).

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