- Robert S. Mueller III
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund Officer of the Month Awards Luncheon
- Washington, DC
- May 13, 2004
Thank you for inviting me to be with you on this special occasion. It is indeed an honor to have the opportunity to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of some truly extraordinary people.
It is said that actions speak louder than words. Given that, the individuals we are recognizing today can be heard loud and clear – through their bravery, through their actions, and through their commitment to upholding the law.
This afternoon, we are honoring these officers for their courage shown in the line of duty. Courage that let them risk death in a blazing fire to save a frightened elderly woman. Courage that drove them to pursue cop killers for their entire careers in the name of justice.
We are also honoring these individuals for their actions -- actions which have sometimes brought them personal injury. Actions such as chasing and then tackling carjackers and thieves even though they were seriously wounded themselves. Overcoming paralyzing injuries and returning to their departments to continue to serve their communities. Battling fires, drug dealers, and cancer all at the same time – and beating all three. Or going into deadly situations armed only with words, and getting shot in the midst of those negotiation efforts.
In addition to these remarkable individuals, we are honoring teams who have produced successes far beyond their size. Who have trained thousands of officers in the D.A.R.E. program and, through them, have reached millions of children with anti-drug messages. Who, at significant personal risk, have recovered hundreds of stolen vehicles and arrested thousands of car thieves and other criminals.
We are honoring soldiers in law enforcement who have served on the front lines of the war on terrorism. Soldiers who have fought anthrax attacks. Captured fugitive serial bombers responsible for terrorizing the nation. Subdued a man holding a grenade, then took that grenade and held it in his bare hands until the bomb squad arrived.
Today, I had the pleasure of sitting with one of these individuals – Murphy North Carolina Police Officer Jeff Postell – who captured a man we at the FBI had been hunting for five years.
Thanks to Jeff, Eric Rudolph is now safely behind bars. And what is particularly wonderful about Jeff's story is that, as Jeff told swarms of reporters at the ensuing press conference, he was just doing his job.
That is what makes the recipients of all 12 of these awards so impressive. Each of you, with all of your accomplishments, with all of the lives you have saved, believed that you were just doing your job.
The men and women of law enforcement – federal, state, and local – are bound together by our common vocation. And it is more than just a job, or a career, or a profession. It is a very personal mission.
It is a mission that we can fulfill only by working together with our law enforcement counterparts here in the United States and around the world. United, we can and are defeating criminal rings, drug traffickers and terrorist networks. None of them can long withstand the power of a united law enforcement family.
It is a mission that requires deep commitment. Indeed, commitment to duty and honor is the very heart of what it means to be a member of the law enforcement community.
Demonstrating that commitment, there are some here who were gravely injured. Thankfully, each of you were able to return to your homes and your families and to attend this awards ceremony.
Tragically, however, some of our heroes have died. And later tonight, at the Candlelight Vigil, we will recognize hundreds of those other heroes – the ones who could not make it home.
I want to take a moment to remember just one of those heroes. He lived – and died – with exactly what we are recognizing today -- commitment. He was FBI Special Agent Lenny Hatton. Panel 23, West-21 of the fallen officers memorial. I have told this story before, but it bears repeating on this occasion.
Lenny was one of the many law enforcement professionals we lost on September 11th, 2001. He died while helping victims escape from the Twin Towers in New York.
I had the honor of attending Lenny's funeral Mass in his hometown in New Jersey, and listened while Lenny's friend and partner, Chris O'Connell, delivered his eulogy. Chris closed his praise for Lenny by saying: "Special Agent Lenny Hatton stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the finest and the bravest. Until we meet again, my partner, my friend."
Chris O'Connell was and is a detective with the New York Police Department. But it did not matter to Chris or to Lenny that one worked for the NYPD and one worked for the FBI. They just wanted to get the job done. They were a team.
Chris and Lenny reminds us today that we are all in this together. We are all part of the same team. And we in the FBI are proud to be your partners. You, more than anyone, stand on the front lines of our nation's battles against crime and terrorism. It is our honor and our privilege to stand alongside you.
Thank you for your service and your devotion to duty. Thank you for inviting me to share this celebration with you. God bless.