As we gather around the table this year to give thanks for our loved ones and many blessings, we should all pause to give thanks for the men and women of law enforcement. Every time they put on a uniform, neither they, nor their families, know if they will come home.
Every day, our law enforcement officers do the most unnatural thing – they run toward danger. Tragically, Sheriff “Big John” Williams of Lowndes County was shot and killed while carrying out his duties Saturday night.
The selflessness and sacrifices of police often go unsung, as millions of daily acts of compassion and care are just part of the job and out of sight of the TV cameras.
While the vast majority of Americans support and count on the police, the recent and terrible trend of disrespect and distrust of law enforcement must be reversed. This summer we watched as people cursed at and doused cops in New York City with buckets of water, and bystanders pelted Philadelphia police with objects as they were responding to an armed stand-off. Our nation simply cannot sit idly by as this anti-police agitation grows.
More than one out of 10 law enforcement personnel will be attacked this year. Almost 59,000 officers were violently assaulted on the job in 2018. Over 18,000 officers needed medical attention. That is a 22% increase in total assaults on police since 2014.
When President Trump issued an Executive Order to protect law enforcement from attacks, I directed the Justice Department and its prosecutors to hold accountable those who assault police and to vigorously support law enforcement in their duties.
Elected officials and community leaders who denigrate and diminish the brave men and women of law enforcement have no place in public office. They are eroding the public trust in our justice system, and encouraging violence against the police. It does all of us a disservice to demoralize and demotivate those who run into harm’s way out of a love for their fellow citizens.
In 2018, over 100 police officers were killed in America (of those, 55 were murdered) doing their duty. Over the last decade, more than a thousand have given their lives for our safety and peace of mind.
Six Alabama law enforcement officers, including “Big John,” made that sacrifice this year. They each left behind grieving families and friends and an empty chair at the Thanksgiving table.
Sheriff Williams loved his job and community so much so that a long-time friend and fellow policeman observed, “Big John was one of those you hear about in our profession that would work for free.” And, in truth, we can never fully compensate the men and women like “Big John” for their courage and kindness.
I know that “Big John” Williams’ story is that of so many police heroes whose dedication and professionalism truly embody the motto, “To Protect and Serve.”
So then, let us take a moment before we enjoy our family meal this Thanksgiving to say a prayer for all of our law enforcement officials and their families.
All law enforcement should know: we have your back, you have our thanks.
Jeff Sessions has served as a U.S. Senator and Attorney General and is a 2020 candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama