FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2004


Good afternoon. I'm delighted to be here and to have this opportunity during National Police Week to help honor both the living and the lost in our law enforcement family. I was honored to serve as your keynote speaker last year, and am quite flattered to be invited back this year to be with you on this important occasion.

I want to congratulate and thank Suzie Sawyer, your President, Linda Soubirous, and all the members of COPS for your 20 years of bringing help, hope, and healing to the families and colleagues of law enforcement officers who have paid the ultimate price in protecting their communities. The Office of Justice Programs has been privileged to provide support to COPS over the last two decades, to assist you in the tremendous work that you do.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank your keynote speaker, and my boss, Attorney General Ashcroft, for his tremendous support for the work of the Office of Justice Programs in supporting state and local law enforcement.

On taking the oath of office a little more than three years ago, Attorney General Ashcroft pledged to make certain that the Justice Department effectively discharges its responsibility to secure justice for all Americans. Every day since that time, he has worked tirelessly to fulfill that promise - and to stand firmly with our brave law enforcement officers, who put their lives on the line, every day, to protect us all.

At the Office of Justice Programs, we strongly support that commitment. And we will continue to do everything we can to make sure that the officers who so selflessly serve our communities have the training, tools, and technology they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.

Along those lines, I'm pleased to announce that, today, through our Bulletproof Vest Partnership program, we're awarding $24 million to law enforcement and corrections agencies to help purchase bulletproof vests to help safeguard the lives of their officers.

Through these awards, about 4,700 jurisdictions throughout the country are receiving funds that will provide for up to half the cost of purchasing over 175,000 bullet- and stab-resistant vests.

Over the past five years, we've helped purchase over half a million vests to protect the men and women who put their lives in jeopardy every day to keep our communities safe. And I'm pleased that OJP is able to continue to support this truly life-saving effort.

We hope that all our efforts at OJP will save other families from the loss, grief, and pain that so many of you have suffered. And I want you to know that, in our work, we are ever mindful of the dangers that law enforcement officers willingly face, and the many sacrifices that their families willingly make, in order to protect all of us.

To honor and remember these sacrifices, late yesterday we announced the first awards under the new Law Enforcement Tribute Act program. We're awarding grants totaling almost $685,000 to 17 communities, to erect permanent memorials in honor of public safety officers who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty.

As President Bush has said, public safety officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice are remembered in our hearts and in the memory of our country. The memorials erected through the Law Enforcement Tribute Act program will help us preserve those precious memories.

I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as you pursue your noble mission, to ensure that our nation's fallen law enforcement officers are appropriately honored for having made the ultimate personal sacrifice -- and to ensure that the families and co-workers of law enforcement officers who are killed in the line of duty have the support they need to help them through their terrible nightmare of grief and loss.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to be here today. May God bless you all.