Vice President Biden Honors a Profession that Honors Him

To a standing ovation of law enforcement and government leaders, survivors of fallen officers and other supporters, Vice President Joe Biden accepted the 2009 Distinguished Service Award Monday evening from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. And he did so with characteristic humility, humor and honor for the profession that was honoring him.

“I especially appreciate this award because of what you have done, not because of what I may have done,” he said. “Ronald Reagan was right: you are that ‘Thin Blue Line’ and thank God we have you.”

Unlike the NLEOMF’s Officer of the Month Award, which is given each month to a law enforcement professional who displays exemplary service or devotion to duty, the Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to “an individual or organization that has made an exceptional and lasting contribution to the law enforcement profession.” Past awardees have included Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as the Police Unity Tour, DuPont, Motorola and Cynthia Brown, publisher of American Police Beat magazine.

In presenting the award, NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig Floyd ticked off just some of the pro-law enforcement legislation Vice President Biden championed during his 36 years in the U.S. Senate:

  • The 1985 ban on armor-piercing, “cop-killer” bullets
  • The Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act, which provided Federal dollars to help purchase body armor for officers
  • The 1994 crime bill that put 100,000 more officers on the street
  • The Violence Against Women Act, which brought down rates of domestic violence and rape, and provided new and meaningful resources to victims
  • Creation of the Congressional Badge of Bravery to honor officers who display exceptional valor
  • And, of course, laws establishing the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and the National Law Enforcement Museum.

“For 16 years, he served as chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He helped craft virtually every major piece of crime legislation enacted during the last two decades,” the NLEOMF Chairman said.

Having suffered the tragic and sudden loss of a loved one himself – just weeks after his 1972 election to the Senate, his wife, Neilia, and their 1-year old daughter, Naomi, were killed in an auto accident – Vice President Biden has always shown great compassion and concern for the surviving family members of the officers who have made the supreme sacrifice. He has attended the funerals and comforted the survivors of the fallen, and he has been especially supportive of the Delaware Chapter of the Concerns of Police Survivors, several of whose members attended the ceremony at the United States Capitol Visitor Center.

Also attending was a “who’s who” of law enforcement and government leaders: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napoletano, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, and Michele Leonhart, Acting Administrator of the DEA. The Vice President paused to remember the three DEA agents who died in a helicopter crash earlier in the day during an anti-drug operation in Afghanistan, praising the DEA for its incredible work at home and abroad. Also on hand were members of Congress, including last year’s award recipient, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The Vice President quipped that he couldn’t understand why his friend from Maryland received the award before he did.

He also singled out the DuPont Company for its work in developing the Kevlar material for bullet-resistant vests, which have been credited with saving more than 3,000 law enforcement lives. “The first obligation we have – whether we’re talking about law enforcement or the military – is to give you everything you need to protect yourselves,” the Vice President said to the law enforcement officers in the auditorium.

And he introduced his two sons who were in attendance: Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, and Hunter, a DC attorney. They had been seriously injured in the same auto accident that took the lives of their mother and sister 37 years ago. The Vice President said he was particularly proud to accept the Distinguished Service Award in front of his sons.

The award itself is quite large, so Craig Floyd asked Colonel Robert Coupe, superintendent of the Delaware State Police, and U.S. Capitol Police Chief Philip Morse to assist in the presentation. Craig noted that those two agencies had played a special role in protecting the Vice President and his family during this nearly four decades of public service.