Today, Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks at a DHS Memorial Ceremony Honoring Law Enforcement Community at DHS Headquarters in Washington, DC.
Thanks very much, Mary Ellen, and thank you for the beautiful rendition of our national anthem and beautiful invocation.
I grew up in a home of reverence for law enforcement. That was something instilled in my brothers, my sister, and me from a very, very early age. I remember to this day that not only was reverence for law enforcement instilled in us, but also an understanding of the fragility of the life of a law enforcement officer or agent.
When I was very young, there was a tragic shooting of two Los Angeles police officers, who had approached a van at a traffic stop and both were killed by the gang members, who were – one was driving and one was a passenger in that van, and my father explained to me that his work was very, very routine and very predictable. He knew what he was heading into when he went into the office -- yes, events could occur, but certainly, they were not as unpredictable as what a law enforcement officer would encounter, nor were the stakes anything close to what a law enforcement officer would encounter.
And I learned from that point on, for example, that there's nothing really routine about a traffic stop. You could say a routine traffic stop, but we can only use the routine term once that traffic stop is already behind us. But when an officer approaches the vehicle, anything can happen.
Not only reverence for law enforcement and a profound understanding of the fragility of their lives, but also an appreciation for the fact that when one serves others serve, too, no one serves alone. And the family of a law enforcement officer or agent sacrifices a great deal every single day as well. When that officer or agent holsters the firearm, pins the badge, and leaves the home each morning or each night, each afternoon, whatever the shift might be, that a family leaves that home as well.
We in the Department of Homeland Security, have 92,000 officers and agents in our ranks, the largest law enforcement organization in the federal government. I think that's one thing that makes us very, very special.
Over the years, we have lost - 20 years, we are commemorating our 20th anniversary - we have lost 147 officers and agents. And this year, we recognize, and we pay tribute to 15 men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who tragically become a part of that 147. And we will never forget them, and we will honor them through events like this, through events that will be hosted during Police Week, each and every year and also and critically through the work we perform every single day.
Police Week, as some of you know, is a special time of commemoration. It is not the only time that we honor our fallen heroes, and I use the term “heroes” advisedly and purposefully because that is what these individuals were, and that is what all of you in law enforcement are.
I don't miss a Police Week, and I try my very, very best not to miss a single event during Police Week. And if some of you have not been to some of the events, whether you're in law enforcement or not, we all should attend them because we're all able to participate in events like this because of the sacrifices of others.
Speaking of sacrifice, I just have to add one thing. Just as my parents instilled in me a reverence for law enforcement, I worked very hard to instill the same ethic in our two daughters. And, you know, our house is the subject sometimes of tumult outside of the house because of the position I hold. It's filled with tumult inside the house, but that's a different conversation. But outside the house, there are men and women outside our home for a reason, unfortunately, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week, and those are the personnel of the United States Secret Service.
And I have shared over the years words with our daughters about the nobility of the law enforcement profession, but the Secret Service has been able to deliver to our daughters those words in action. They understand, and seeing these individuals interfere, when something uncertain is approaching that could present a bit of a danger or a lot of danger, they see these individuals stand in the way. And they understand now in witnessing that, what it means to stand in the way of danger, so somebody else can be safe.
And that is what the people in law enforcement, the men and women in law enforcement, do every single day. And whether it's the profoundly saddening, yet inspiring opportunity to attend the Fraternal Order of Police's event in front of our Capitol, where one sees hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of families travel from all over the country to honor their fallen member, or whether it's the candlelight vigil on Saturday evening, where one sees thousands of candles light up in the sky. It is a poignant, beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspiring way to understand how grateful we must be and are for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
And we have very distinguished people here today from national and international law enforcement organizations, and I want to say thank you for being here and for honoring the fallen within the Department of Homeland Security, who are partners, we are partners with all of you now, before and in the many, many days to come.
So, thank you all so very much.