[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[June 16, 1998]
[Pages 968-970]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Signing the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act and the
Care for Police Survivors Act
June 16, 1998

    Captain, thank you very much for your 
remarks and even more for your service. I think it's fair to say that 
everyone in America followed the harrowing trail that you were part of 
just a few months ago and grieved the loss of those two troopers and the 
others who were killed. And we thank you for your presence here.
    Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for all 
the work you've done over the last 5\1/2\ years. And thank you, Attorney 
General Reno, for doing a superb job of one of 
the things I asked you to do when we first talked about your becoming 
Attorney General, and that is being a genuine

[[Page 969]]

advocate for local law enforcement officials throughout this country.
    I thank all the Members of Congress who are here and the 
extraordinary bipartisan support for actually two pieces of legislation 
that I will sign today, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act and 
the Care for Police Survivors Act.
    All the Members of Congress have been introduced, but I think I 
should note, because not all the sponsors are here, that the Bulletproof 
Vest Partnership Act was cosponsored in the Senate by Senators 
Campbell and Leahy, and in the House by Representatives Visclosky and LoBiondo. The Care 
for Police Survivors Act was cosponsored in the Senate by Senators 
Hatch and Biden, and in the House by Congressman Schumer and Congressman McCollum. I 
thank them and all the others who are here.
    This is a time of progress and prosperity for our country. We're 
grateful to have the lowest unemployment rate in 28 years and about to 
have our first balanced budget in 29 years. And we just learned that 
crime dropped in 1997, as the Vice President said, for a virtually 
unprecedented sixth year in a row. Murders have declined more than 25 
percent, overall crime by more than 15 percent.
    In many ways our country is seeing a return to personal 
responsibility--the welfare rolls are the smallest percentage of our 
population in 29 years--and to respect for the law--the crime rate last 
year dropped to a 25-year low. That makes a real difference in the lives 
of Americans. Our neighborhoods are safer; our families are more secure. 
Americans actually feel more free, and they are.
    There has been a lot of debate in the country about the reasons for 
the drop in the crime rate. Of course, a better economy helps, and so do 
the neighborhood watch groups and all the efforts being made in 
communities across the country to keep kids away from crime, from school 
uniforms and curfews to after-school programs and tough truancy 
enforcement. But one thing is absolutely clear: A huge factor in the 
declining crime rate has been more police and better policing.
    Across the country these men and women in uniform whom we honor here 
today are putting their lives on the line by joining their communities, 
getting out of the squad cars, protecting people. And America owes them 
a tremendous debt of gratitude.
    When we passed the crime bill in 1994 we said in 6 years we would 
put 100,000 police on the street. I'm pleased to report that already 
we've helped to fund 76,000 of those 100,000. We're ahead of schedule 
and under budget. And I'm very proud of that because it makes all the 
Members of the Congress who have supported this partners in your fight 
against crime.
    Just yesterday, for example, local officials and Federal agents 
together swept into one of the most troubled areas in Philadelphia as a 
part of Operation Sunrise. Working with local residents, they're 
targeting crimes and drugs, even graffiti. I applaud their efforts and 
hope they'll be replicated.
    A crucial part of our 5\1/2\ year effort to make the Federal 
Government a partner with you for a safer America has been making sure 
that police officers have the tools to do the job. There are few tools 
more important than the body armor or bulletproof vests we see behind 
us. Over the past decade, body armor has saved the lives of more than 
2,000 officers. The FBI estimates that the risk of a gun-related 
fatality is 14 times higher for an officer--let me say that again--14 
times higher for an officer who does not wear a vest than for one who 
    The Vice President told you about Officer Margiotta and his vest. He's actually here today, and I'd like 
to ask him to stand, along with any other officer here who has ever been 
shot wearing a bulletproof vest. Will the others stand, please? 
    The line of fire will always be a dangerous place. People can get 
hit in the leg in the wrong way and bleed to death. It will always be 
dangerous. But today we are making it less dangerous for those who are 
brave enough to walk that line. Every day all of you in uniform protect 
us; it's good to know that every once in a while there's something those 
of us on this end of the line can do to help to protect you.
    So I'm proud to sign the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act. 
Twenty-five percent of the State and local law enforcement officers 
don't have this body armor to protect their lives. This legislation will 
help police departments provide it to them. It is a critical investment 
in the safety of those who have to be in harm's way.
    Let me also say that as we do everything in our power to make police 
work a little less

[[Page 970]]

dangerous, we have to recognize that every year there are all too many 
officers who do make the ultimate sacrifice for safe streets and 
children's futures. That is why I am also proud to be signing here the 
Care for Police Survivors Act, which supports counseling for families 
who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.
    Last fall I also proposed to provide--help provide college 
scholarships for the children of slain officers. And again, I say, that 
I hope the Congress will pass that. That's an important investment and a 
small enough one to make in the children of those who give their lives 
to protect our children.
    Community police are making children safer in our neighborhoods, and 
let me just say, once again recent events have reminded us of that in 
our schools. Just yesterday, I'm sure we all saw the story of a student 
who shot two people in a Richmond, Virginia, high school. They're 
expected to make a full recovery, and we thank God for that. And 
fortunately, the assailant was chased down several blocks and 
apprehended by Officer Ron Brown. Officer 
Brown was assigned to the school because of the COPS program our 
community policing program helped put in there. The COPS program is a 
good start, and I'm proud that he was a part of it, especially 
yesterday. Officer Brown is here today, and I'd like to ask him to 
stand. Thank you very much for your service, sir. [Applause]
    Today I am asking Attorney General Reno and 
Secretary of Education Riley to report back 
to me before the start of the school year on ways that we can help to 
provide more police in our schools, just as we have provided more police 
for our communities. Congressman Jim Maloney has proposed legislation to do that, and I urge Congress 
to pass his bill as a back-to-school special for America's children.
    America is grateful for the hard work that all of you in uniform and 
all of those whom you represent throughout this country do. Every day, 
as you make our lives safer and our people more free and our children's 
future brighter, we know that you're there, and we're grateful. We 
understand, too, that you can't always do it alone. All of us as parents 
and leaders must teach our children right from wrong and turn them away 
from violence. But by working together and giving you the tools to do 
your job, we will make this a better and a safer nation in the 21st 
    Thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you.
    I would like to ask all the Members of Congress to come up here for 
the bill signing. Officer Brown, why don't 
you come on up, and why don't we ask these police officers to come up 
with us today.

Note: The President spoke at 3:37 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Marc Metayer, captain, Vermont 
State Police; and Henrico County, VA, police officer Andrew Margiotta. 
S. 1605, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Act of 1998, approved 
June 16, was assigned Public Law No. 105-181. H.R. 3565, the Care for 
Police Survivors Act of 1998, approved June 16, was assigned Public Law 
No. 105-180.