Honoring Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers

Click HERE for a high-resolution photo of Senator Collins with members of Lt. Goupil’s family

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a joint resolution of Congress proclaiming May 15 of each year to be Peace Officers Memorial Day, with the week containing that day designated as National Police Week.

In 1991, America’s respect for the men and women of our law enforcement community took concrete form with the dedication of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. Located in Judiciary Square, the seat of several federal and municipal courts, the memorial’s 304-foot-long marble walls bear the names of the more than 20,000 officers who gave their lives in the line of duty throughout our history, dating back to the first known death in 1791.

Unlike most memorials in our nation’s capital, this one changes every year with the addition of new names. On this year’s Peace Officers Memorial Day, the names of the 143 officers killed in the line of duty in 2016 were added. In addition, Lieutenant Rene Goupil, a Maine State Police officer with two decades of service who died while on duty in 1990, was added to the memorial this year. I was honored to meet with members of Lt. Goupil’s family in my office.

I was honored to co-sponsor the Senate resolution designating the week of May 15 through May 21 as National Police Week 2017. Our resolution declares that federal, state, local, and tribal police officers, sheriffs, and other law enforcement officers across the United States serve with valor, dignity and integrity; that they pursue justice for all and perform their duties with fidelity to the constitutional and civil rights of all; that their service to their communities is unyielding, despite inherent dangers in the performance of their duties; and that the vigilance, compassion, and decency of law enforcement officers are the best defense of society against individuals who seek to do harm.

In addition, our resolution acknowledges that law-enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice should be honored and remembered, and that the loved ones they leave behind should receive not only our heartfelt condolences, but also our unwavering support.

Supporting the families of these brave men and women is a national obligation. That is why I introduced the bipartisan Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship Act to assist the children of fallen members of our first responder community – law-enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services workers—who might not be able to afford a college education. My bill would help these children by making them eligible for the maximum Pell Grant award.

Each year, some 150 first responders are killed in the line of duty. We count on our first responders to be our first boots on the ground when tragedy strikes. These brave men and women make tremendous sacrifices to protect our communities, and we owe them all a debt of gratitude. For first responders who lose their lives in the line of duty, this bipartisan legislation would increase their children's access to an affordable education and help to ease the financial onus placed on their families. In some cases, these grants make the difference for whether a child can attend college.

Our National Police Week Resolution also recognizes our obligation to ensure that law enforcement officers have the equipment, training, and resources necessary to carry out their duties and meet the challenges on the ground. The bipartisan funding bill that was signed into law in early May of this year provides $2.4 billion for state and local law enforcement activities, including the Office on Violence Against Women, juvenile justice programs, and community crime prevention grant programs.

The bipartisan funding bill also provides $276 million for law-enforcement programs related to the heroin and opioid abuse crisis that is causing so much harm in Maine and throughout the country. The funding will be used for treatment programs for those in prison, expanded grant programs for community policing, and other efforts. There is no better way to signal our appreciation for law enforcement officers’ dedication than to provide them with the resources that they need.

National Police Week reminds us of the debt we all owe to law-enforcement officers for their commitment to safer communities, for their bravery, and for their sacrifice. It is a debt we repay both with the resources they need to do a difficult job and with our thanks for a job well done.