THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||June 16, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT BULLETPROOF VEST BILL SIGNING
THE PRESIDENT: Captain, thank you very much for your remarks andevenmore for your service. I think it's fair to say that everyone in Americafollowed the harrowing trail that you were part of just a few months agoandgrieved the loss of those two troopers and the others who were killed. And wethank you for your presence here.
Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for all the work you've done overthelast five and a half years. And thank you, Attorney General Reno, fordoing asuperb job of one of the things I asked you to do when we first talkedaboutyour becoming Attorney General, and that is being a genuine advocate forlocallaw enforcement officials throughout this country.
I thank all the members of Congress who are here and theextraordinarybipartisan support for actually two pieces of legislation that I will signtoday: the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act, and the Care for PoliceSurvivors Act.
All the members of Congress have been introduced, but I think Ishouldnote, because not all the sponsors are here, that the Bulletproof VestPartnership Act was cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Campbell andLeahy,and in the House by Representatives Visclosky and LoBiondo. The Care forPoliceSurvivors Act was cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Hatch and Biden,and inthe House by Congressman Schumer and Congressman McCollum. I thank themand allthe others who are here.
This is a time of progress and prosperity for our country. We'regrateful to have the lowest unemployment rate in 28 years and about to have ourfirst balanced budget in 29 years. And we just learned that crime droppedin1997, as the Vice President said, for a virtually unprecedented sixth yearin arow. Murders have declined more than 25 percent; overall crime by morethan 15percent.
In many ways our country is seeing a return to personalresponsibility-- the welfare rolls are the smallest percentage of our population in 29years-- and to respect for the law -- the crime rate last year dropped to a25-yearlow. That makes a real difference in the lives of Americans. Ourneighborhoodsare safer, our families are more secure. Americans actually feel morefree, andthey are.
There has been a lot of debate in the country about the reasons for thedrop in the crime rate. Of course, a better economy helps, and so do theneighborhood watch groups and all the efforts being made in communitiesacrossthe country to keep kids away fromcrime, from school uniforms and curfews to after-school programs andtough truancy enforcement. But one thing is absolutely clear: ahuge factor in the declining crime rate has been more police andbetter policing.
Across our country these men and women in uniform whomwe honor here today are putting their lives on the line by joiningtheir communities, getting out of the squad cars, protecting people.And America owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude.
When we passed the crime bill in 1994 we said, in sixyears we would put 100,000 police on the street. I'm pleased toreport that already we've helped to fund 76,000 of those 100,000.We're ahead of schedule and under budget. And I'm very proud of thatbecause it makes all the members of the Congress who have supportedthis partners in your fight against crime.
Just yesterday, for example, local officials and federalagents together swept into one of the most troubled areas inPhiladelphia as a part of Operation Sunrise. Working with localresidents, they're targeting crimes and drugs, even graffiti. Iapplaud their efforts and hope they'll be replicated.
A crucial part of our five and a half year effort tomake the federal government a partner with you for a safer Americahas been making sure that police officers have the tools to do thejob. There are few tools more important than the body armor orbulletproof vests we see behind us.
Over the past decade, body armor has saved the lives ofmore than 2,000 officers. The FBI estimates that the risk of agun-related fatality is 14 times higher for an officer -- let me saythat again -- 14 times higher for an officer who does not wear a vestthan for one who does.
The Vice President told you about Officer Margiotta andhis vest. He's actually here today, and I'd like to ask him tostand, along with any other officer here who has ever been shotwearing a bulletproof vest. Will the others stand, please?(Applause.)
The line of fire will always be a dangerous place.People can get hit in the leg in the wrong way and bleed to death.It will always be dangerous. But today we are making it lessdangerous for those who are brave enough to walk that line. Everyday all of you in uniform protect us; it's good to know that everyonce in a while there's something those of us on this end of the linecan do to help to protect you.
So I'm proud to sign the Bulletproof Vest PartnershipGrant Act. Twenty-five percent of the state and local lawenforcement officers don't have this body armor to protect theirlives. This legislation will help police departments provide it tothem. It is a critical investment in the safety of those who have tobe in harm's way.
Let me also say that as we do everything in our power tomake police work a little less dangerous, we have to recognize thatevery year there are all too many officers who do make the ultimatesacrifice for safe streets and children's futures. That is why I amalso proud to be signing here the Care for Police Survivors Act,which supports counseling for families who have lost a loved one inthe line of duty.
Last fall I also proposed to provide -- help providecollege scholarships for the children of slain officers. And again,I say, that I hope the Congress will pass that. That's an importantinvestment and a small enough one to make in the children of thosewho give their lives to protect our children.
Community police are making children safer in ourneighborhoods, and let me just say, once again recent events havereminded us of that in our schools. Just yesterday, I'm sure we allsaw the story of a student who shot two people in a Richmond,Virginia, high school. They're expected to make a full recovery, andwe thank God for that. And fortunately, the assailant was chaseddown several blocks and apprehended by Officer Ron Brown. OfficerBrown was assigned to the school because of the COPS program -- ourcommunity policing program helped put in there. The COPS program isa good start and I'm proud that he was a part of it, especiallyyesterday. Officer Brown is here today and I'd like to ask him tostand. Thank you very much for your service, sir. (Applause.)
Today, I am asking Attorney General Reno and Secretaryof Education Riley to report back to me before the start of theschool year on ways that we can help to provide more police in ourschools, just as we have provided more police for our communities.Congressman Jim Maloney has proposed legislation to do that and Iurge Congress to pass his bill as a back-to-schoolspecial for America's children.
America is grateful for the hard work that all of you inuniform and all of those whom you represent throughout this countryto do. Every day, as you make our lives safer and our people morefree and our children's future brighter, we know that you're there,and we're grateful. We understand, too, that you can't always do italone. All of us as parents and leaders must teach our childrenright from wrong and turn them away from violence. But by workingtogether and giving you the tools to do your job, we will make this abetter and a safer nation in the 21st century.
Thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you.(Applause.)
I would like to ask all the members of Congress to comeup here for the bill signing. Officer Brown, why don't you come onup, and why don't we ask these police officers come up with us today.
(The bill is signed.)