21. Law enforcement is an exceedingly dangerous profession, with an average of one hundred and fifty (150) officers who die in the line of duty every year. Since 1962, the Federal government has recognized the sacrifices of law enforcement officers killed in the of duty by designating 15 May as “National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day.” Nearly thirty years ago, the National FOP began holding a Memorial Service on this day to honor the memories of the fallen officers and their loved ones. This event is held on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol and is attended by the family of the officer, as well as thousands of fellow officers and friends. For the last fifteen years, the keynote speaker for this event has been the President of the United States. Will you pledge to attend the May 15th Memorial Service event honoring the families and memory of our nation’s slain heroes?
Obama: Yes, as president, I plan to attend the “National Peace Officers Memorial Day” scheduled for May 15th of this year as I have in past years.
I believe that our nation’s public safety officers are American heroes who risk their lives to keep our families and communities safe. Despite facing budget constraints and daily threats, public safety officers embrace innovative approaches to improving our Nation and upholding the rule of law. They put their lives on the line to protect ours, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice.
While we can never adequately thank our law enforcement officers for their service, we can use every tool at our disposal to protect them on the job. I am committed to providing funding for resources to keep cops on the street and to collaborate with law enforcement agencies and organizations like yours to develop strategies that reduce injuries and deaths in the line of duty.
My administration launched the new Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability (VALOR) initiative, designed to reduce and prevent law enforcement officer injuries and line-of-duty deaths. And after consulting with members of the law enforcement community, we instituted a new mandatory wear policy as part of our Bulletproof Vest Partnership program as of last year. We will continue to seek more efficient ways to share information and invest in evidence-based, smart-on-crime approaches to fight crime and will provide support to the families of law enforcement officers if tragedy does strike.
Romney: Yes. As president, it would be a humbling honor to attend the Memorial Service for law enforcement officers who have given their lives protecting our communities, including meeting with spouses and family members who have suffered such tragic losses in support of our public safety. The recent surge in line-of-duty killings of law enforcement officers is deeply alarming to me, and I know this trend is even more alarming to the law enforcement officers and the community of spouses and family members who stand behind them. As president, I will work diligently to reverse this unacceptable and dangerous trend.
22. The families of law enforcement officers and other public safety officers who are killed in the line of duty are eligible to receive a one-time death benefit from the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) program. Yet, for the last several years, many of our survivor families have faced great difficulty and resistance from the Office of General Counsel (OGC) which must approve the benefit before the family receives the money. These Federal attorneys see themselves as defending against a claim against the Federal government, instead of a death benefit for a grieving family. The Fraternal Order of Police is working with our allies on Capitol Hill to examine what reforms might be needed at the PSOB program, but it is possible that there simply needs to be a new perspective at OGC. What steps will you take as President to expedite the payment of the PSOB death benefit?
Obama: We must do everything in our means to provide the necessary help and support to the families and public safety agencies that lose an officer in the line of duty. My administration will continue to seek ways to improve this process so we can best provide survivors and law enforcement, firefighter, and other first responder agencies with the best information and support through the claim process. I am pleased that my administration is working with your leadership to help ensure that payments are made in a timely way.
Romney: I strongly support the PSOB program. As Governor of Massachusetts, I also supported and signed a law to provide death benefits at the state and local level to part-time and volunteer public safety officers killed in the line of duty. Programs such as these should be implemented in a way that minimizes the administrative burden on grieving families and the law enforcement support network that assists them in their application for benefits. I pledge to work with the Fraternal Order of Police and its allies to remove any obstacles to a timely review and payment of benefits due under this program. I will also review and consider potential legislative reforms to the program that may be proposed with an eye toward that same objective. If changes in policy or personnel at DOJ or elsewhere also are warranted, I will see to it that they are made.
23. Since the Fraternal Order of Police is the largest labor organization representing this country’s law enforcement professionals, how will you involve and consult with our leadership concerning any legislation, regulations, or other Administration activity relating to law enforcement or criminal justice issues?
Obama: Yes. I stand committed to continuing to forge a strong relationship with the Fraternal Order of Police and furthering our commitment to our nation’s law enforcement officers that sacrifice daily to protect our communities and people. My administration has ensured that FOP leadership and membership always have a seat at the table on issues of importance to our nation’s law enforcement, and I hope to continue this engagement in my second term as president.
Romney: As president, I will have an open door policy and consult with the Fraternal Order of Police and its leadership on matters related to law enforcement and criminal justice, and I will insure that the cabinet and agency leaders in my administration do the same.