President Biden spoke at the US Capitol Saturday at an annual ceremony honoring law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty — hours after a Texas sheriff’s deputy was slain in an apparent ambush in Houston.
“Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it’s ever been,” Biden said during a 20-minute speech in which he cited the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot and COVID-19 — but not last summer’s sometimes violent George Floyd protests and a steep rise in violent crime — as he called 2020 “the deadliest year for law enforcement on record.”
“We expect everything of you,” Biden said. “And it’s beyond the capacity of anyone.”
The president used the speech to tout his stalled police reform bill, calling it “a call to do better, for us to step up, build trust and respect, and heal the breach we now see in so many communities.”
He also called for passage of his massive social-spending bill, which he said includes $350 million for community policing programs that, he promised, will “stop violence before it starts.”
His remarks appeared to receive a muted reception from the crowd.
Flags flew at half-staff across Washington, DC and on federal buildings nationwide to mark the 40th annual observance. The ceremony, organized by the National Fraternal Order of Police and normally held in May, was canceled in 2020 as the pandemic exploded.
Biden and his wife Jill listened solemnly as “American Idol” winner Kellie Pickler sang “God Bless America” to begin the ceremony. Hundreds gathered on the Capitol’s West Lawn to hear a reading of the names of nearly 500 officers killed in the line of duty in 2019 and 2020.
During his career as a senator from Delaware, Biden cultivated a law-and-order persona, taking the lead on a tough 1994 crime bill that has since been blamed for mass incarceration of African Americans.
But left-wing Democrats have pushed for police defunding in reaction to that law — and efforts to pass Biden’s compromise reform measure sputtered in the Senate last month.