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Remarks by Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry at Meeting with Members of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers

Location: Washington, DC

May 14, 2004 Friday




SEN. KERRY: Well, President Holway --

DAVID HOLWAY (national president, IBPO): There you go. (Laughter.)

SEN. KERRY: -- thank you. This is a very meaningful endorsement. I consider it one of the most important and one of the best that I could receive because I have a huge amount of respect and affection for the brothers and sisters in the police departments across our country, for those who are the front lines of law enforcement in our nation.

I cherish those years when I was a prosecuting attorney. I worked with police officers closely in communities in one of the 10 largest counties in America, and I'm proud of what we did to take criminals off the street, to deliver justice to people, to make the criminal justice system work. And that experience came with me to the United States Senate. That is one of the reasons why I was so passionate about putting the 100,000 police officers in our streets.

I saw what was happening in the 1980s, where the numbers of police officers was going down and the numbers of crimes and felonies particularly were going up. And we'd suddenly gotten to a point where we had reversed the ratio; where once upon a time there had been more police officers per felony, there were now many more felonies per police officer. And police officers were having so much work to do that they did not have the ability to go to court, didn't have the ability to find the time to investigate cases, didn't have the ability to find the time to be able to work with neighbors and get to know a community and be able to prevent crime, let alone solve it.

I've always understood that that front line defender, not just responder, is somebody who had the ability to make lives safer for people.

If you know people in the community, you know who doesn't belong in the community. If you know people in the community, you have the ability to find out information that people who don't know the community can never find out. That's how you solve crimes. That's how you prevent crimes.

And as a result of our efforts to put a hundred thousand police officers in the streets of America, violent crime went down one-third. We made America's communities safer. We made our children safer. We helped people to be able to live free from fear.

Now we're going backwards, and we're going backwards at a time when we're supposed to be doing even more to make America safe. It doesn't make sense. It's wrong. And I think it's a fundamental betrayal, not just of the law enforcement community, but of the entire way in which you build community in the United States, make people safer and advance the quality of life.

I'm committed to doing what we need to do to fight crime in this country, and I'm committed to what we need to do to make America safer. And this is not the moment to have firehouses, two-thirds of which are under-staffed; not the moment to have police departments, where they're losing officers because the federal government is cutting 500 -- half a billion dollars-half of one billion dollars-about one-eighth of what we spend in Iraq every month is being cut per year.

And yet, the one thing this administration fights for is a great big whopping tax cut for the people who earn more than $200,000 a year-over a trillion dollars-at the expense of our police officers and the expense of our communities. It's just wrong. There is a difference between right and wrong and most people understand it. And that's wrong.

So I'm proud of this endorsement. And I love your batting record. (Laughter.)

And I hope that it's an indicator of the cooperative effort that we can make together to make our country stronger.

That's what this is about. This is not about politics. You all have indicated your open-mindedness because you were there with the president four years ago. And what you're doing is making a decision based on what's best for the law enforcement community and what's best for our communities. I respect that, and I will live up to it. I will live up to it.

As someone who has worn a uniform in situations where people were shooting at you, I have nothing but respect for the dangers you face. Right now today, here in Washington, your fellow officers from all over this country are gathered to pay tribute to 145 who have fallen in the last year. I was struck when I saw that number -- 145. That's a lot of people who put their lives on the line. And they are killed, some of them in the most dangerous situations, some of them in the most innocent situations. Any stopping of a car on any road or highway can become a fatality for an officer. Any domestic abuse dispute, where you think it's the most casual response, turns often into a shooting.

So it is a dangerous line of work. It's a form of service to community and to country, and it deserves to be supported by our leaders, and I pledge to you I will do that. So I thank you. (Applause.)

Copyright 2004 The Federal News Service, Inc.

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