WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama paid tribute Saturday on behalf of a grateful nation to law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice while safeguarding their communities.
Americans "rely on a certain order in our lives, a certain sense of security that lets us sleep safely in our beds and walk around our neighborhoods free from fear and go about our daily lives without being the victims of crime. That sense of security doesn't come on its own," he said in brief remarks on the west front lawn of the Capitol during Peace Officers Memorial Day, which honors officers killed in the line of duty.
"What makes it possible, what makes freedom possible, are the law enforcement officials that we honor today," he said.
The event is part of National Police Week, an annual tribute to law enforcement service and sacrifice.
The president said he was proud of law enforcement officials who chose their careers out of a sense of calling to serve their neighbors, neighborhoods and "to live a life in service of others."
"It's a calling that carries immense risk," he added, citing the uncertainty of what that next duty call might bring.
"Every day in America, families go about their lives" — work at the office, dropping kids at school, said Obama, who was joined at the event by Attorney General Eric Holder.
"We often take it for granted, this cycle of life." But, he added, "chance can change everything overnight."
Figures from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund show that officer deaths declined from 138 in 2008 to 116 in 2009. That's the fewest line-of-duty deaths since 1959, when there were 109, according to the data.
More officers died in traffic-related incidents in 2009 than from any other single cause of death, but the number killed by gunfire increased by more than 20 percent, according to the group's report.
Some of those honored at the memorial service included the four officers killed near Seattle by an ex-convict; four who were shot to death in Oakland, Calif.; and three other police officers shot to death in Pittsburgh.
On the Net:
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: http://www.nleomf.org/
(This version CORRECTS typo in 'carries' in 6th paragraph.)