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Mon, May 20

Column | Honoring our frontline heroes

(Photo by Vanessa Espinoza/Daily Miner)

(Photo by Vanessa Espinoza/Daily Miner)

When a shot is fired, when there is an accident on the road, when there is an emergency, without fail the badges in blue show up for us. They strap a gun to their hip every day, leave their loved ones, and go out into our communities to keep us safe and secure. Every day they stand guard against those who break the law. This week marks National Police Week – a week where we pay tribute to the law enforcement in our country. We owe a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women of law enforcement, their service, and their sacrifice.

Their unwavering dedication to protecting our communities should never go unnoticed. This week in particular – we honor the lives lost in the line of duty. So far in 2019, there have been 40 deaths of police officers in the line of duty – including two from Arizona.

We honor Phoenix Police Office Paul Thomas Rutherford who lost his life too early in late March. Officer Rutherford was a true public servant, husband, father, and grandfather who upon graduating from high school went on to join the Air Force. After his military service, he continued his service by dedicating 22 years to the Phoenix Police Department. We also honor the life Salt River Police Officer Clayton Joel Townsend who was tragically killed by a distracted driver – he left behind a wife and a young child.

It is in Officer Townsend’s memory that Governor Doug Ducey recently signed HB 2318 that bans the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving a vehicle. Not one more police officer should face an untimely death because they were conducting routine operations to keep our streets safe.

Law enforcement are the unsung heroes of our towns and our neighborhoods. They are the watchful eye that often we don’t call upon until we need help. Each year, Southern Arizona highlights their community’s ‘Unsung Heroes’ with awards for their everyday heroism that often goes unnoticed. Five officers were recognized at a banquet earlier this year, but there are thousands more deserving of the same honor. For example, we are grateful for the heroism Glendale officer Jacob Gonazles who rescued a two-year old from nearly drowning in a pool this past August. And the groundbreaking efforts of police departments like Prescott Valley who is holding their annual “A Peek behind the Curtain” for students to see what it means to be a police officer and give back to their community.

As your Senator, I want to ensure that our nation’s law enforcement officials have the tools and resources they need in order to return home safely each night to their families.

Last year, I supported the reauthorization of the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program which brings together federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutors in a partnership to reduce violent crime. The program compiles data and evidence from every level of crime to refocus their efforts in a singular way. Just this week I reintroduced legislation to reauthorize the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program – which provides federal reimbursement to state and local governments for the costs associated with detaining criminal illegal aliens who had at least one felony or two misdemeanor convictions for violations of state or local law, and were incarcerated for at least 4 consecutive days during a reporting period.

However, our law enforcement don’t wait around for Congress to get their act together. Failed policies and lack of treatment facilities or access doesn’t stop our men and women in blue from handling often complex, volatile, and tragic situations. I’ve seen firsthand their bravery from ride-alongs with Arizona law enforcement and how they are also on the front lines of engaging with people in mental health or addiction crisis. They always answer the call.

This National Police Week, I hope you’ll join me in thanking members of law enforcement for their service and sacrifice for our public safety. They truly are the best of us.

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