Earlier this month we were all devastated to learn that two police officers had been tragically murdered while conducting a basic traffic stop in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Already this year, 42 police officers nationwide have died in the line of duty. In 2014, 117 members of law enforcement died while working to keep our local communities safe. Those numbers are heartbreaking.
Last week, we celebrated National Police Week, which serves as a great opportunity to reflect on the hard and dangerous work our nation’s police officers do on a daily basis. More than 25,000 police officers from across the country traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in events and a special ceremony for fallen police officers.
I recognized National Police Week by paying a visit to the Mobile Police Department this past Monday to thank the local officers for what they do. I enjoyed shaking the hands of those men and women, looking them in the eye, and telling them just how much we appreciate their service.
There is something truly remarkable about choosing to put your life on the line so that others may live. That’s what police officers do each day. From simple tasks such as helping school children cross the street to dangerous tasks such as a high-speed car chase, our law enforcement officers play a critical role in protecting our communities.
When most of us leave to go to work, we generally know that we will be coming back home to our families. That is not the case for the men and women of law enforcement who put their life on the line every day to keep us safe.
In honor of Police Week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of bills designed to honor our law enforcement officers. We passed H.R. 606, the Don’t Tax Our Fallen Public Safety Heroes Act. The bill amends the tax code to make sure death benefits paid to families of a fallen police officer aren’t subject to federal income tax.
We also passed H.R. 723, the Fallen Heroes Flag Act of 2015, which allows members of Congress to provide a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol and a special certificate to the families of fallen law enforcement and public safety officers. This small token is the least we can do to honor our nation’s fallen heroes.
In recent months, events across the country have raised serious questions about the role of law enforcement in our communities. And while there are some obvious reasons for concern, what is almost never mentioned is the consistent good work and dedication 99.9 percent of our nation’s police officers put forward on a daily basis.
I can’t imagine what the families of fallen police officers must go through, but I hope they can take great pride in knowing that their son, daughter, husband, wife, mother, or father died in an effort to keep others safe.
Vivian Cross, the wife of a police officer who died in the line of duty, said it best: “It is not how these officers died that made them heroes; It is how they lived.”
I hope you will join me in thanking the police officers in Southwest Alabama for living a life of service in order to help keep our communities safe. Just as important, as you go to lay your head on your pillow tonight, I hope you will take time to say a special prayer for the safety of our law enforcement officers.
Bradley Byrne is a member of the U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.