This week we are celebrating National Police Week – a time to respect, honor, and remember the brave men and women in law enforcement who protect and serve us. This year’s commemoration comes with the crime epidemic on the minds of so many our neighbors, especially in light of U.S News and World Report recently ranking Louisiana as the worst state in the country for violent crime.
While we only have 4.5 million people in our State, we still experience 60% more violent crime per 100,000 citizens than the national average. And it is our police officers and sheriff deputies who must race to the scenes of the all-too-often carjackings, armed robberies, shootings, rapes, and other violent crimes plaguing Louisiana. There are no trophies and very few accolades for this difficult work; yet, these peacemakers continue to be our first responders.
I know how challenging a career in law enforcement can be, as I started my professional life as a police officer and a sheriff’s deputy. During that time, I worked nights, weekends, and holidays – in the neighborhoods, on the roads, and in the jails. I know that those in uniform experience both the best and the worst communities have to offer. Often, these individuals are on the receiving end of violence as well. It is a career that is hard on your body, your mind, and – in some cases – when you have faced the worst humanity has to offer, it can be hard on your soul.
But all of this can be even harder on the families of those in blue because, while it is rarely covered on the news, behind every brave man and woman in uniform are people who love them. We must not forget that there are often husbands, wives, and children who are also making sacrifices for their communities. These are the ones who feel the stress of time apart, important events missed, and the strain of deep exhaustion brought home at the end of a shift. Then, if a loved one makes the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, they are left with the grief and uncertainty that follows.
This sorrow and anxiety is something that I have seen firsthand. As your Attorney General, I serve as the Chairman of the Law Enforcement and Firemen Survivor Benefits Board. Over the last seven years, I have met with the families of our State’s finest killed in the line of duty. While it is one of the most difficult parts of my job, I am proud to ensure that those families receive all of the assistance that we can legally provide. And since 2016, 117 claims have been approved and over $31 million in benefits have been paid directly to the survivors of our fallen first responders.
Still, Louisiana must do more than honor our fallen and support their families. We must also continue to support law enforcement as they battle the opioid epidemic, fight internet crimes against children, stand against illegal immigration, and work to end domestic violence and sexual assault. We must push back against those who wish to defund the police and disrespect the blue. And we must continue to have the backs of officers who continue to operate within the law.
Our State’s crime problem will not be remedied overnight. A safe Louisiana can only be achieved with the help of law enforcement. Without the sacrifices of our officers and deputies – and their families – we will never fully address violent crime, hold hardened criminals accountable for their actions, or protect our citizens.
That is why, this week, I ask you join me in appreciating Louisiana’s law enforcement. Please be sure to thank those who stand on the thin blue line that divides order and chaos. And please pray with me for these brave men and women to be strong and steadfast. Together, we can make Louisiana a better place.