DOI Honors Fallen Law Enforcement Officers at Memorial Ceremony
May 16, 2011
Good afternoon. My name is Polly Hanson. I'm the new director of the office of Law Enforcement and Security. On behalf of Ken Salazar, the secretary of the Department of the Interior and the DOI Law Enforcement Community. I want to welcome you to the 2011 Department of the Interior, Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony. We want to thank the Black Bear Singers for their powerful tribute.
The theme of this year's Police Week is "We'll Always Remember" which is why we're here, to demonstrate that we will always remember those who have lost their lives in the line of duty, their survivors, and the men and women of the Department of Interior's Law Enforcement Agency who support the mission of the Department every day. Police Week began in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15th Police Officers Memorial Day and the week in which it fell as Police Week.
This weekend, we saw thousands of police officers from all over the United States converge on Washington D.C. to remember those who gave their lives in the line of duty in 2010. Please stand while the newly formed US Fish and Wildlife Service Honor Guard posts the colors and then remain standing for the national anthem sung by US Park Police Sergeant Allan Griffith, III and the invocation provided by Police Chaplain, Monsignor Salvatore Criscuolo.
[Singing] Oh, say! Can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming; Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there: Oh, say! does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Let us now bow our heads in prayer. God our father, we come before You this day offering You our praise and our prayers as remembering those members of the Department of Interior Law Enforcement who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
We will remember them always not for how they died, but for how they lived. We will remember them always for their commitment, their dedication and their love of country, and their call to protect and to serve. We also remembered today the family members, our survivors who have been left behind, who have lost their loved ones.
We ask Lord that You continue to give them strength at time of weakness, courage in time of fear, and faith in time of death. We offer this prayer today Lord as Your loyal and faithful servant calling upon to do Your will. In his name, let us all pray. Amen.
You may now be seated. Thank you Sergeant Griffith and Monsignor Sal. Nice job Fish and Wildlife Honor Guard. We want to welcome those of you who are watching us via web cast from Interior Bureaus across the vast Department of the Interior Landscape. Providing introductory remarks is Kim Thorsen, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Law Enforcement, Security and Emergency Management.
Ms. Thorsen provides leadership in a variety of issues, to include drug enforcement, border coordination, critical infrastructure protection, information sharing, continuity of operations, emergency preparedness, and if that's not enough, the response to wild land fire incidents.
Ms. Thorsen has been with the Department of the Interior since 2003 when she joined the office of Law Enforcement and Security. Prior to joining the Department, Ms. Thorsen enjoyed 13 years as a criminal investigator with the United States Forest Service, culminating in her assignment to Washington D.C. as the Deputy Director for the Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations Program.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Thorsen holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and is a graduate of the Harvard JFK School of Government. Deputy Assistant Secretary Thorsen.
Thank you Polly. Welcome and thank you for participating in the Department of the Interior's Annual Memorial Ceremony. Once a year in conjunction with the National Police Memorial Week, we set aside a few moments to remember and pay tribute to those agents and officers who have paid the ultimate price while fulfilling the oath they took to protect and defend the United States of America against all enemies.
For close to 25 years, I have worked in law enforcement and during those years, I have witnessed the selflessness, the fearlessness, and the valor that characterized every agent and officer we commemorate today. As Attorney General Holder once said, "These are rare and honorable traits that all of you know well and no doubt, miss dearly." Although this is traditionally a sad and solemn day, let us always remember the great work each of our fallen brothers and sisters performed on behalf of this country.
During the time they were part of the law enforcement family, each of them did their due diligence in protecting the people of this nation. Each of them made an arrest, took a law enforcement action, protected another life, all for people they may not know or will never meet.
But these heroes did this because this what they do, they were asked to do. This is their job. From an unknown author, "They stood up, they showed up, they step forward, they raise their right hand, they stood in the gap, they walked in the fire, they did not run, they did not hide, they did not dodge, they did not evade.
Consequently, they had nothing to prove, no one to convince. Those who matter already know, those who don't know never will." Everyone in law enforcement understands the challenges and risks they face each day as they suit up and go to work. We work to keep order, save lives, and to preserve society's very framework, that is in many cases accepted so causally. We work around the clock to uphold our laws, on the front lines, in the fight against crime and terrorism.
This job is dangerous and always will be as long as there are people who are willing to harm us. We will not continue to be the Land of the Free without the dedication, service, and sacrifice of all our men and women in the law enforcement family. Our officers work side by side with many partners, without which we couldn't accomplish our mission nor could they accomplish theirs. I want to take a moment and recognize some of those partners in the loss of their officers. We share many close law enforcement partnerships with hundreds of Native American tribes across the continent.
Last year, Joshua Yazzie of the Uintah and Ouray Tribal Police was killed in a vehicle accident while responding to assist federal officers. A tragic loss we all feel. Interior also enjoys a close working relationship with the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection. Those who protect our homeland along the thousands of miles of our international border. Last year, CBP lost two of their own on interior lands.
Border Patrol Agent Michael Vincent Gallagher and Customs and Border Protection Officer Charles Floyd Collins. Agent Gallagher was killed in an automobile accident on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation when his truck was struck by a drunk driver. Officer Collins was killed in an automobile accident while driving on a remote stretch of the Taylor Highway in Alaska. We remember and recognize those officers for their dedication to protecting our homeland and all of us.
We also mourn in the recent loss of Border Patrol Agents Hector Clark and Eduardo Rojas who died in the line of duty last Thursday near Gila Bend, Arizona. To Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher is with us today here in the audience, we extend our condolences on your tragic loss. Thank you for being here with us today. And thank you to all who serve us every day.
Thank you very much Deputy Assistant Secretary. Now, it's my pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker, the secretary of the Department of the Interior Ken Salazar. Secretary Salazar, the 50th secretary of the Department of the Interior comes to us from United States Senate where he represented the state of Colorado from 2004 until 2009. And before that, Secretary Salazar was Colorado's 36th attorney general.
We all know that Secretary Salazar is a fifth generation Coloradian and the secretary has long been committed to making the community safer and is known for his support of the unique law enforcement organizations in the Department responsible for protecting the Department's resources, treasures, employees, native communities, and visitors. Secretary Salazar is a tireless advocate for resources, heritage, culture communities, and the energies that power our future. Secretary Salazar.
Thank you very Polly for the introduction. It is as Kim said a solemn occasion to reflect on those who have given so much to our country and to upholding the rule of law, but also in a sense a celebration of the lives of those who have served this country from its founding and will continue to serve this country and this Department.
We are particularly proud and thankful of the 34 hundred law enforcement officers, the third largest federal law enforcement Army if you will within the federal government. And today in meeting with the honor guard for the Fish and Wildlife Service which is a newly formed honor guard, I thought about how important it is to celebrate the work that each and every one of our law enforcement officers does every day. So, let's give the honor guard for the Fish and Wildlife Service a round of applause.
It's an honor for me to be here today. I was reminded on the way in that even though I have been a part of Law Enforcement Memorial I think since I became attorney general in my state in 1998 last year I missed and I missed it because I was working with 10 thousands men and women of the Department of Interior addressing the issues of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
And so, it is my honor now to be back and to be with all of you on this date. I want to recognize Kim Thorsen for her leadership and I want to also thank Polly Hanson who does a lot of great work on behalf of law enforcement and our Department. I also want to say that what we do on behalf of this Department and its people especially in this difficult times where not everybody in this country and not everybody in congress is supportive of what we do in government is something which we take on very seriously at my level as well as the positions of assistant secretaries and the directors of your bureaus.
And so today, I want to also say thank to Wilma Lewis who is the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals, Anne Castle the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, and the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks who is on an acting basis, I think she's been announced, maybe I better not announce her, I'll make some publicity here.
But let me also say, thank you to John Jarvis the Director of National Park Service and to Bob Abbey the Director of BLM, to Ronald Gould and Dan Ashe Director of Fish and Wildlife Service, Larry Echo Hawk and Mike Black, Directors of BIA, and Mike Connor the Director of Bureau of Reclamation.
So, you all stand, let's give them a round of applause of their leadership in this Department. [Applause]
As we mark National Police Week, this is a time to remember and pay tribute to all the national state tribal local law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. This is the time to honor those brave and dedicated men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice in protecting our employees, our monuments, and our industrial and cultural and recreational facilities, and the hundreds of millions of people who visit those places every year.
This is also a time to remember the survivors, the spouses, children, and the relatives of the fallen officers. They remain in our thoughts and prayers. And as a theme of this week goes, we will never forget. And this is also a time to express our gratitude to all those law enforcement officers who continue to serve and protect our communities, national parks, Indian country, the dams and reservoirs, and towns and cities all across this nation from sea to shining sea and into a territories of America.
This is especially an important day for the Department because the 34 hundred law enforcement officers of our country continue to carry on a very difficult and very dangerous jobs. They perform a viable service to allowing us in this democracy to stand up for the rule of law and to continue the democracy and freedoms which we all enjoy.
In my time as your Secretary of Interior, I have been to just about every state of United States of America, around the world, and I have had the opportunity to meet many of our fellow law enforcement officers all around the country. I'm always impressed and I'm in awe of their dedication to the profession and their solemn duty to serve and protect this nation.
Let me share few stories from this past year that reflect the breadth of responsibilities and dangers that our law enforcement officers face. We had an interior officer in West Virginia who balanced on the precipice of a very tall bridge at New River Gorge to successfully resolve a suicide attempt. The officer put his life on the line in order to save another person's life.
We had an officer at a National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia whose simple suspicion of a parked car lead to rescuing a disoriented and emotionally distraught women who would not have survived the subfreezing temperatures of that cold March night. We had the officers who investigated over a number of years and successfully prosecuted the for-profit lootings of Native American graves in Utah and southwestern Colorado involving ancient archaeological sites and priceless artifacts.
On top of this, the everyday heroes which all of you are, remind us of the wide range of responsibilities that you carry on to protect the constitution and the First Amendment rights of Americans on our public lands whether it’s the 31 million people who visit our national mall every year or whether it’s the major events which you oversee in front of the White House or across this country.
The danger in this work is ever present. Since 1852, a 136 men and women of the Department of Law Enforcement officers have died in the line of duty. But, we can be proud that because of training and because of your constant vigilance. We have developed an outstanding safety record. Over the past five years from 2005 to 2010, Interior has not lost a single officer in the line of duty. That is something to remember because it is through training and through your constant vigilance as law enforcement officers that we make sure that you also are protected because as we do everything we can to protect the public and the American treasures of which we have such great responsibility.
It is as important that you also are doing everything that you can to protect yourself and that is way the training programs that we have here in Interior training that we do with all the other federal agencies are so important in the work that we do. We did lose two officers earlier this year because of health problems and also an accident. National Park Service Ranger Chris Nickel died of cardiac arrest on January 29th while performing a hiking patrol in Hovenweep National Monument in Utah.
And only a few weeks later, National Park Service Range Julie Weir was killed in a traffic accident on February 24th while traveling to a new duty assignment after completing her basic training in Georgia. While we remember and we pay tribute to Julie today, we will be formally recognizing them next spring. We know that many of you are in attendance in the Candlelight Vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial here in Washington D.C. on Friday evening.
I have attended that vigil several times before. It is an awesome national commemoration of the great work of law enforcement throughout our country. Just last year, 162 law enforcement officers from local state, federal, and tribal forces gave their lives for this country, that is 162 law enforcement officers in the year 2010. We honor and thank them, and recognize them and their families for their sacrifice.
And for the Department of the Interior, we know keenly the importance of these memorials, these physical places, these great treasures to our nation, and the work of law enforcement does to protect them. As stewards of our national cultural resources, we help ensure that future generations know the complete story of America including the sacrifices of those who came before us to make our country a country of freedom.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is a place where we can mourn, celebrate, and pay tribute to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. I understand that the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund this year completed the engraving of 314 names this year on that memorial. Among them is US Park Police Officer William Allen who was killed back in 1923. Officer Allen left a wife and a 4-day-old daughter.
He is now the first known US Park Police Officer to die in line of duty. He joins the 19 thousand other law enforcement officers on the National Memorial Wall. We also wish to convey our gratitude to the families of the seven tribal police officers who were remembered and honored at the 20th Annual Indian Country Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service earlier this month at the US Indian Police Academy in Artesia, Mexico.
Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Larry Echo Hawk was there. He represented the Department of Interior. He conveyed the Nation’s gratitude to the families of those officers, officers who were members of our local and federal partner agencies who support the Department's mission. Their names were added to those already inscribed on the Indian Country Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. That memorial now has 96 names inscribed.
To those officers and to their families, I again repeat the name of the theme of the National Police Week 2011 "We will always remember". And we know that we in this Department over the last several years have taken on a major role in inter-agency and interdepartmental responsibility to try to make Indian Country safer.
Many places all of you know around our nation and the responsibilities that we have for the 564 federally recognized tribes are places where the rule of law frankly has not always been honored, but we don't have the kinds of law enforcement personnel with the kind of systems to make sure that law and order is maintained. And for the leadership of BIA and leadership of many of you who are here today, we are making progress to make sure that we have the rule of law on Indian Reservation.
Last year, President Obama signed into law the Tribal Law and Order Act which will allow us to accelerate our focus on tribal communities and to help make sure that we do all we can to make those tribal community safer. And thanks to an increase in the 2009-2010 budgets, we hope to continue to fight for those budget numbers even in these very difficult times. We are putting more law enforcement officers in Indian communities and improving training which is so important and equipment.
We're also revamping the recruiting process for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. We are now because of the recruiting efforts we have increased the applicants for those positions by over 500 percent and we have hired more than 100 new officers to the BIA just last year. That's the largest hiring increase in the history of the Department of Interior in the law enforcement arena. Last year, we also launched an intense community policing pilot project on four reservations experiencing high crime rates.
I have met many of the officers who have worked in those reservations. We are already seeing promising results, reduction of crime rates by, notes say it's 5 percent, but I know it's actually reduction of more than 10 percent at this point in time. And so it's a tribute to the inter-agency, interdepartmental full force effort to deal with the crime rates on those reservations.
I want to take a minute to commend the interior law enforcement officers who joined this vital initiative to improve the safety of American-Indian communities. In corporation with BIA, more than 560, that's 560 of you interior officers along with the assistants from forest service officers have taken part in Operation Alliance. The initiative provided 10 thousand officer days of direct community police service to tribal communities to help reduce crime and allow residence to feel safe in their homes and in their neighborhoods. These officers were from the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation, and they all perform a very important service. More importantly, they became partners in the communities that they served. Their presence and outreach made a really big difference. I want to thank these officers. I want to commend the Bureau of Law Enforcement chiefs for their commitment and dedication service to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Tribal Communities and Operation Alliance 2010. Violent crime in Indian country must be aggressively confronted. And we will continue to work with tribes and the Department of Justice to address this pressing issue. I want to thank you for joining me today in remembering and honoring the officers who have died in line of duty, as well as thanking all officers for their commitment to our mission.
I deeply appreciate their contributions and to the American people. And I'm proud of each and every one of them and each and every one of you and the work that you do. In conclusion, let me speak about some personal reflections on this day. For me as attorney general of my state for six years, I was the chair of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.
And during that time frame, we developed the training curriculum and programs for firearms training for arrest, control and all other aspects of law enforcement in my state. It was because as chairman of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, I have the responsibility of training and certification for about 14 thousand peace officers within the state of Colorado. And as we develop that program, I was always inspired to do my very best to stand with the law enforcement officers in my state.
Because I had come to know officers, families who had seen their own loved ones die in line of duty. And to many stories that I learned during that time, I know that every day that you get up, sometimes you go to work midnight, sometimes it's early in the morning where you put on your uniform, and put on your badge, you arm yourself, you go out and you do your job.
And also those days, you will return home safely. But there are some of those days where some of our heroes will hold the rule of law will not return home to their loved ones. And so, on the day like today, it’s important for us to, yes, remember that it is also important for us to we dedicate ourselves to supporting the men and women who are in law enforcement across our country and here at the Department of the Interior.
About a year-and-a-half or so ago, I went to the Arizona border. Some of you who remember Officer Kris Eggle who died in the line of duty now about eight or nine years ago. I met there with his father. And Mr. Eggle and I went out to the place close to the border where Office Eggle had given his life trying to enforce the laws of our country. It was a difficult and a sad day for Mr. Eggle, as well as for me and those who went to that hallowed ground where Officer Eggle had given his life for this country.
So on this date, it's always important for us to say thank you. It's important for us to commemorate the officers and the families. And it's important for us to we dedicated ourselves to the rule of law which you so ably uphold. Because I have had the honor of traveling to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and other places around the world in my role in United States Senate and other roles.
I understand how privilege we are here in America. We're privileged because we have a great democracy. We have the freedom that we all enjoy. You cannot say that the about many communities in Afghanistan, in Iraq, or even in places like the Northern States of Mexico and many other places around the world.
We have a rule of law and we are able to celebrate the freedom and democracy of this great country. And we're still the beacon of hope of human possibilities in this country in large part because it is the men and women who are in uniform every day, and some who are in uniform, but nonetheless are law enforcement officers who are making sure that there is a healthy respect for the rule of law in America. So as your 50th Secretary of Interior today, it is my honor and privilege to say thank you. Thank you.
Thank you Mr. Secretary for joining us today and for your heartfelt remarks. I noticed in your remarks you talked a lot about partners and partnerships. And many of our partners are here today. So, I feel that I need to recognize them for taking time out of their busy schedules. I know that I saw local and federal partners, the City of Alexandria, ATF, the Metropolitan Police, Border of Patrol, colleagues. And so, I liked to ask our local and federal partners to please stand and be recognized.
Representatives from the Department of the Interior, Bureaus with Law Enforcement Officers will now lay wreaths representing their bureau and to serve as a visual display that shows that we will always remember the 3,449 Department of the Interior employees who protect our visitors, native communities, employees and treasures, and the 136 who gave their lives in the line of duty in 2010, as well as the Department of Interior officers who gave their lives in the line of duty.
Chiefs and Directors, please stand to meet your wreath bearer for the presentation of the wreaths. Representing the bureaus are the law enforcement chiefs and directors from the National Park Service, Steve Shackelton. From the United States Park Police, Teresa Chambers. From the Fish and Wildlife Service, James Hall. From the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Darren Cruzan. From the Bureau of Land Management, Jeanne Van Lancker. And from the Bureau of Reclamation, Dave Achterberg. Now, join me in a moment of silence, recognizing the service and commitment of all those who have their names engraved on the Police Memorial and to remember those members of the Department of the Interior Law Enforcement community that have given their lives in service to the mission of the Department of Interior.
It looks like we're all standing up now. [Music]
Thank you Captain Harrisack and Steve Cannier for the taps and the bagpipes. I don't have to ask you to stand, you already are. Because now, we're going to have the benediction and then remain standing for the retirement of the colors and the final song by the Black Bear Singers.
Let us now once again bow our heads in prayer. God our father as we concluded this memorial ceremony, we will always remember those 136 members of the Department of Interior who have made the ultimate sacrifice. And we continue to remember and give thanks and offer our prayers for those who continue to serve in the Department of the Interior. May the Lord now bless us. May He let up His face shine upon us. May He continue to be with us this day and every day. In His name, we once again pray. Amen.
I think we're ready for your Black Bear Singers. [Singing]
Thank you again Black Bear Singers. A round of applause for them and the rest of our participants.
This concludes our ceremony. On behalf of the secretary and the Law Enforcement members of the Department of the Interior, thank you for joining us today. We will always remember. And we like you to join us for light refreshments in the lobby. Thank you. You are dismissed.