11:13 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Welcome. Welcome to the Rose Garden. Welcome to the White House. Please be seated, please be seated. And congratulations. It’s a great honor to be here with the best of the best, and equally as impressive for us to be here with the families of the best of the best.
Dean, how you doing?
The officers here today have been singled out for extraordinary acts of bravery, and you’re a remarkable group of people. You’re made of that sterner stuff, and the best we have in this country.
But you’re not only the people who risk your lives to protect all of us, you're also the first ones out there to volunteer to lay down the lines of the Little League field. You’re the first ones to volunteer at youth camps. You’re the first one to help your neighbor, whether you've got a badge on or not -- don't have a badge on. You’re a unique bunch of individuals.
I’ve often tried in all these years of working with you, been trying to figure what is in your DNA, man. Whatever it is, though, we want to replicate it.
You deserve not only our thanks and our gratitude, but you deserve our support. That's why the President has fought so hard to fund the COPS program, the Byrne grants at unprecedented levels -- a billion dollars for COPS in our first year alone.
And earlier this year, finally, because of this man insisting in all the negotiations going on about the budget, finally -- finally -- he was able to sign legislation to secure the D Block, dedicating spectrum to create a national interoperable public safety communications system that you never have to face -- so you never have to face again the dilemmas you saw in New York City on 9/11, in Katrina. You're actually able to communicate. And this is the reason why it happened, this man right here. (Applause.)
Because I want to tell you, they tried to make him have to choose between this and other equally important things he cared about, but this was a showstopper if they weren’t going to go forward with this. It shouldn’t have taken so long, but it took the leadership of Barack Obama to get it done.
It also takes -- it also takes leadership, the type demonstrated by the President, to stand up for folks who want to take away your collective bargaining rights. (Applause.) To say you’ve earned those rights would be the understatement of the day, and they will not be taken away as long as we can do anything about that, or anyone else who cares. (Applause.)
That's real leadership. This man has been committed to law enforcement his entire career. He has never, never wavered from fighting to make sure you guys have the resources you need not only to protect your communities, but to protect one another, to protect your brothers and sisters. He understands what you know, that having more cops on the street is going to keep you safer; those of you wearing the shield, you are safer when there’s more of you because you have each other’s backs. And that's why he’s been tireless in fighting to keep as many of you on the job as humanly possible.
I’ve been at this for a long time. Tommy Nee and his predecessors, all of -- we’ve been good friends for a long, long time. And I can tell you -- I can say without fear of contradiction, this President feels it in his bones. He understands. He understands what you face. He understands that every day your husband or wife walks out the door -- you family members -- there’s that little shudder because you don't know what’s going to happen. And we’re both incredibly appreciative for what you do.
The President’s commitment to law enforcement goes to his very core. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce to you my friend, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Please, please, have a seat.
Well, welcome to the White House. It is wonderful to be with all of you. It is especially good to be with somebody who has been fighting on behalf of law enforcement all his life. Everywhere I go, in every community, people see the track record and the legacy of Joe Biden's work when it comes to looking after law enforcement. And so I just want to thank my Vice President, who has shown leadership in this administration to make sure -- (applause) -- to make sure you guys have what you need.
My Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, is here. She does outstanding work. (Applause.) The director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and a longtime police officer, Gil Kerlikowske, is here. Give Gil a big round of applause. (Applause.) Representative John Conyers is here. (Applause.) And of course, I want to welcome the leaders of the National Association of Police Organizations, including your president, Tom Nee. (Applause.) Tom told me he just had a new granddaughter.
MR. NEE: Grandson.
THE PRESIDENT: Grandson. What's his name?
MR. NEE: Nicholas Joseph (ph).
THE PRESIDENT: Nicholas Joseph (ph). So give him a round of applause for that. (Applause.)
You know, I look forward to this event each and every year, because it’s a chance to say thank you. Every day, hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers keep our neighborhoods safe, and frankly, they don’t ask for a lot. They don't ask for a lot of credit. They don’t go to work planning to be heroes. They just do their jobs.
But when you put on that badge, you assume a special responsibility. And every time you put it on, you never know if this day will be the day that you’ve spent your entire career training for -– the day when just doing your job and being a hero are exactly the same thing. For the men and women standing behind me, America’s Top Cops, that day came. And when it did, they were ready. They didn’t flinch. They didn't back off. There are people who are alive today only because of their courage.
Now, I had a chance to just shake each one of these individuals' hands and express my appreciation to them personally. They're a pretty humble group. Some of them will tell you they don't deserve to be called heroes; they're entitled to their opinion. (Laughter.) I disagree with them. I think they are. What else do you call a team that takes down a deranged gunman and saves countless lives? (Applause.) Or a unit that flies a helicopter into dangerous winds, and pulls off a daring nighttime rescue? (Applause.) Or an officer who, after being shot three times, switches her gun from her right hand to her left, so that she can return fire until backup arrives? (Applause.)
I guarantee you that when the bullets were flying, when lives were on the line, these men and women weren’t thinking about bravery. They weren’t thinking of themselves. Instead, they were looking out for their fellow officers, and for the civilians that they swore to protect. And when they return home, they’ll go back to being just another member of the team.
But they've earned this moment. Today, we celebrate 34 extraordinary individuals, and we recognize the sacrifices they and their fellow officers make. Some of our Top Cops are still recovering from gunshot wounds. I’m sure that many are, even now, thinking of a partner or a teammate who fell in the line of duty.
So we honor their memories today. We honor all those who have put their lives on the line in order to protect their fellow citizens -– even if they were complete strangers. I hope that we also pledge to learn something from the example that they set. Because while most of us will never be asked to run straight into a hail of bullets, or chase down an armed suspect on foot, we also have responsibilities to meet.
For those of us in elected office, that includes helping states and cities to keep first responders on the job. It includes supporting cutting-edge tools they need, from a high-speed public safety broadband network to a new generation of mobile apps.
Even as we do everything we can to support men and women like our Top Cops, and to make police work safer and more effective, we do have to recognize that one thing will never change. Our safety will always depend on the quiet heroism of ordinary Americans, like the ones that we recognize today. We will be forever in debt to those who wear the badge; to men and women with a deep sense of duty, and a willingness to serve and sacrifice on our behalf. And I think these individuals don't mind me saying that they are representative of the sacrifices and that quiet courage that exists among law enforcement officers all across the country -- and their families, because I know the strains of families in such a difficult job is significant as well. And those families, those of you who are here today, we want to say thank you to you as well.
So, again, to the 2012 Top Cops, thank you for everything you do. God bless you and your families. And God bless the United States of America. All right. (Applause.)
11:23 A.M. EDT