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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor to mark National Police Week. In his remarks, Thune commended law enforcement officers for their service and honored officers who were killed in the line of duty. Thune noted that police departments across the country continue to face challenges from increasing crime, vilification of officers, and recruitment issues, and he called on Congress and the president to support law enforcement with adequate resources and effective policies.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, this week is National Police Week – a time set aside to honor the service of our nation’s law enforcement officers.
“To show appreciation for the sacrifices they make to keep our communities safe.
“And to pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
“Being a police officer is no easy task, Mr. President.
“An ordinary day for the men and women in blue takes extraordinary character.
“It takes courage to run toward danger – to take on the unknown.
“But if you ask a police officer, he or she will usually say, ‘It’s just part of the job.’
“That job, Mr. President, is a vital one.
“And I’m profoundly grateful to the brave Americans who step up to protect and serve – in my state of South Dakota; in Washington, D.C., where the U.S. Capitol Police work to keep us, our staff, and our constituents safe; and around the country.
“Mr. President, there’s no denying that law enforcement is a dangerous job.
“Police officers face threats and confront suffering on a daily basis, and many officers bear the visible and invisible wounds of their job.
“Some officers make the ultimate sacrifice, laying down their lives to protect their fellow citizens.
“This year’s National Police Week resolution honors the memory of the 443 law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty last year, as well as the 32 lost to date this year.
“And my thoughts and prayers go out to their families and to their fellow officers.
“Mr. President, being a police officer has never been easy.
“Over the last few years, however, steady criticism and vilification and the enduring ‘Defund the Police’ movement have made the job a lot harder and taken a noticeable toll on morale.
“Police retirements and resignations are up around the country, and there aren’t enough applicants to fill available openings.
“The police department in Asheville, North Carolina, is down 40 percent of its budgeted positions.
“Cleveland, Ohio, has its smallest police academy class in 25 years – just nine recruits.
“And here in Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Police Department has fewer officers than at any time in the last 25 years.
“Meanwhile, crime continues to surge around the country.
“Here in D.C., violent crime is up 13 percent from the same time last year, and property crime is up 30 percent over the same period.
“In Philadelphia, retail and auto theft are surging, and as one article recently noted, small business owners are hoping the next mayor will make public safety a top priority.
“Meanwhile, in Chicago, crime is up 42 percent compared to the same time last year, driven in part by a staggering 131 percent increase in motor vehicle theft.
“And the list goes on.
“And surging crime is almost unquestionably being aggravated by the rise of big-city prosecutors who seem uninterested in actually prosecuting crimes.
“Philadelphia’s district attorney, for example, actually campaigned on a platform of prosecuting fewer crimes.
“Then there’s the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., who declined to prosecute two-thirds of arrests last year. Two-thirds.
“D.C. police data says the average homicide suspect has been arrested 11 times before he or she commits a murder.
“Mr. President, Congress has the legal authority to block D.C. ordinances thanks to federal legislation rooted in the Constitution, which gives Congress legislative jurisdiction over the seat of the U.S. government.
”And when – in the face of a crime surge – the D.C. city council passed a law weakening penalties for a number of crimes, Congress intervened and successfully blocked the bill.
“And yesterday the Senate successfully passed Senator Vance’s legislation to block another D.C. city council measure – a measure that would make it more difficult for police officers to do their jobs and could lead to targeting of individual officers.
“Mr. President, between soft-on-crime policies and prosecutors and anti-police rhetoric – too often amplified or accommodated by members of the Democrat Party – it’s been a difficult few years for police officers.
“And the Biden administration has presented yet another challenge for law enforcement – the crisis at our southern border that has raged for the past two years thanks to the president’s refusal to take border security seriously.
“There have been a staggering 5 million attempted illegal crossings of our southern border during the Biden administration – an average of 6,300-some individuals per day.
“And that doesn’t even count so-called ‘gotaways’ – individuals the Border Patrol saw but was unable to apprehend.
“And those numbers got even worse last week as the Biden administration prepared to lift pandemic-era Title 42 authorities, which allowed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to quickly turn back at least some individuals at the border.
“Our Border Patrol agents – and our nation’s border communities – are overwhelmed.
“Border Patrol agents in San Diego last week arrested an Afghan national on the FBI’s terror watchlist, underscoring that the immigration crisis directly affects our national security and public safety.
“And cross-border illegal activity is making life difficult for law enforcement agencies around our country.
“I’ve talked to sheriffs in South Dakota – about as far from our southern border as you can get – who are dealing with fentanyl that has been trafficked across the border from Mexico.
“Last year Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead estimated that 90 percent of fentanyl and meth in our state comes through Mexico.
“And that trafficking is undoubtedly being facilitated by the chaos at our southern border.
“Mr. President, despite the many challenges they face, particularly over the past few years, law enforcement officers continue working around the clock to keep our communities and our country safe.
“This week and every week, we need to honor their service and remember their sacrifices.
“And this week and every week, we need to do the work of ensuring that our laws and policies support our nation’s law enforcement officers in their jobs.
“That our men and women in blue have the tools and resources they need to enforce the law.
“And that misguided policies don’t endanger our officers and stand in the way of public safety.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”