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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today expressed his deep gratitude to the men and women of our nation’s law enforcement community. Thune warned against the dangers of anti-police sentiment and rhetoric, and he discussed the need to send a unified message that police officers perform an essential public service.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, before I begin, I want to mention the severe storms that hit eastern South Dakota last Thursday.
“I visited Castlewood on Saturday to get a look at the damage, and it is extensive.
“Homes and a school have been damaged, and many of our farmers were hit hard and lost critical equipment.
“My thoughts and prayers are with all those South Dakotans who were affected, in particular the family and friends of the two women who were killed in the storm.
“My office will be doing everything possible to help those affected get the assistance they need to recover.
“Mr. President, this week is National Police Week – a time set aside to honor the service of our nation’s law enforcement officers, and pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
“Mr. President, while there are a number of tough jobs out there, being a law enforcement officer is in a different league.
“I can think of only one other career path where a willingness to lay down your life for your fellow citizens is part of the job description.
“Law enforcement officers don’t know what they will face when they get up every day.
“They don’t know what they’ll face when they respond to a call.
“But they go out anyway.
“We call, and they come.
“Day or night.
“No matter the danger.
“Mr. President, in addition to the physical dangers they face, police officers also bear a heavy mental burden.
“Most of us don’t have to confront evil in our everyday life – thanks in large part to the sacrifices of our nation’s law enforcement officers.
“But police officers have to get up close and personal with evil on a daily basis.
“They get a front-row seat to fallen humanity.
“And they pay a price.
“Mr. President, being a police officer has always been a tough job.
“But over the past couple of years, it’s gotten even harder.
“The defund the police movement and anti-law-enforcement sentiment have taken a tremendous toll on police departments and police officers.
“Morale has sunk – which has resulted in increased resignations and retirements.
“Police departments are understaffed, which has stretched officers to the limit and limited their ability to respond to crimes.
“And unsurprisingly, police departments are struggling to recruit officers.
“Being a police officer is a difficult enough job as it is – it’s not surprising that people would be reluctant to go into this field knowing that the reward for their sacrifices will be constant criticism and vilification.
“Defund the police rhetoric has also put officers in increased danger.
“I find it hard to believe that the 59 percent increase in murders of police officers in 2021 had nothing to do with the fanning of anti-police sentiment.
“And defund the police rhetoric – and soft-on-crime policies associated with it – are taking a toll on public safety – and contributing to the surge in violent crime we’ve been seeing.
“Mr. President, the defund the police movement is a movement that should never have gotten off the ground.
“It is based on a lie – that America’s law enforcement officers are evil and racist.
“It is also based on the absurd premise that society can exist without the police, or that police officers can be replaced by social workers and psychologists.
“Mr. President, there may well be individuals who fall into a life of crime as a result of tough circumstances.
“But there are also a lot of criminals who choose evil deliberately, not because of a difficult past, but simply for their own personal gain – whether that looks like money or power or revenge or violence.
“And as long as we live in a world where people deliberately choose evil, we are going to need men and women who are willing to step up and confront that evil and do their best to ensure that the perpetrators face justice.
“Mr. President, when the defund the police movement arose two years ago, the Democrat Party should have stepped up and denounced it.
“Instead, they equivocated – and some Democrats openly embraced defund the police rhetoric.
“Now the president and other Democrats, perhaps motivated by poll numbers showing that Americans are seriously concerned about crime, are trying to distance themselves from anti-law-enforcement rhetoric.
“But it’s pretty difficult to take the president seriously on this when he’s filled key administration posts with individuals who have spoken supportively about defund the police efforts.
“Even the vice president is on the record praising efforts to divert money from police departments.
“Mr. President, defund the police rhetoric needs to disappear from public discourse.
“We need to be making it clear as a society that policing is an essential job and that police officers perform an essential public service.
“I’m proud to support legislation like the Back the Blue Act, which would increase penalties for deliberately targeting a law enforcement officer and give officers new tools to protect themselves.
“Police officers face the possibility of serious injury or death on a daily basis.
“The least we can do is make sure that we are doing everything we can to discourage attacks on our law enforcement officers.
“In addition to supporting legislation like the Back the Blue Act and the Protect and Serve Act, I will also continue to urge the president to take action to secure the border.
“Border security is not just something that affects border communities.
“Lax border security has consequences for the entire country.
“South Dakota law enforcement leaders and officials tell me that they’re seizing drugs that they can trace directly back to the cartels who smuggle these drugs across the border.
“We currently have a very serious fentanyl problem in this country.
“In fact, right now fentanyl overdose is the leading cause of death for U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 45.
“And where is all this fentanyl coming from?
“Mostly it’s being trafficked across our southern border.
“And there is no question that the worse the situation at the border gets, the easier it is for drug smugglers to evade detection and capture – which means more drugs flowing into our country and more of our law enforcement officers having to deal with the consequences.
“Mr. President, in my job I have the privilege of interacting with law enforcement regularly – whether it’s members of the Capitol Police, who protect Congress, or local law enforcement in South Dakota.
“As a senator, I’ve been in more than one situation where I’ve gotten to see up close what happens when danger threatens – and law enforcement officers step into the breach to protect those in peril.
“And I am more grateful than I can say for all the men and women in South Dakota, in D.C., and around the country who have made the choice to serve.
“I am also tremendously grateful for their families.
“It’s no small thing to say goodbye to a husband or wife or mom or dad every morning knowing that there’s a chance that he or she may not come home that night.
“And no mention of the sacrifices made by our law enforcement officers would be complete without mentioning the sacrifices made by their families.
“Mr. President, the mission statement of the police department in Rapid City, South Dakota, is ‘Community First, Service Above Self, Integrity-Driven. One Interaction at a Time.’
“That definitely describes our Rapid City officers.
“And it’s a pretty good description of law enforcement officers across South Dakota and around the country.
“Service above self.
“We are lucky to have men and women around our country who put their communities first and choose service above self.
“And I pray that we will always remember that.
“And so again, Mr. President, this Police Week – and every week – I want to express my deep gratitude to the men and women of our nation’s law enforcement community.
“Thank you for putting your lives on the line every day to keep our homes, our families, and our communities safe.
“Thank you for your sacrifice.
“God bless you all.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”