During Police Week, Portman Honors Ohio Police Officers on Senate Floor
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during National Police Week, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks on the Senate floor honoring Ohio police officers. Portman, who joined with his bipartisan colleagues to introduce a resolution designating May 13-19, 2018, as “National Police Week,” recounted recent stories of Ohio police officers who risked their own safety in dedication to justice and a sense of duty to protecting those in need.
Said Portman in his speech: “I’m honored to be able to be here on the floor this evening to thank these police officers and their families, and I look forward to seeing them here in Washington this week and letting them know that in this chamber, in this Congress, and in this country, we appreciate what they do. We're grateful for their service and we understand their sacrifices.”
Portman again recognized the service and sacrifice of Officer Tony Morelli and Officer Eric Joering of the Westerville Police Department who were both killed while responding to a 911 call on February 10th.
A transcript of the speech can be found below and you can watch the video here.
“This afternoon, I want to talk about the brave men and women in law enforcement who are out there protecting us every single day. I’m from Ohio. We’re proud of our Ohio law enforcement. We’re proud of the leadership that many Ohio law enforcement officers have had at a national level over the years. In fact, right now, the vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police is an officer from Marion, Ohio. Unfortunately, we have had in Ohio some tragic incidences over the past several years of law enforcement officials doing their job, coming into a dangerous situations—injuries, shootings, even loss of lives of some of our officers earlier this year.
“This week is called Police Week. It’s the week where we take a moment to stop and remember those officers and talk about them. Today I join my colleagues here in the Senate in cosponsoring legislation, which is a resolution commemorating this week as Police Week. And although every single day we should be grateful to those police officers who are out there in the Buckeye State, my home state, and others, this is the time this week to really focus on them, focus on the sacrifices and the bravery, what they do every day, committing themselves to protecting our communities, often risking their own safety to protect others.
“Sometimes we talk about this as ‘the thin blue line,’ which is that thin blue line between chaos and order, and it’s those police officers on that thin blue line—the men and women in blue—who are out there protecting us from that chaos. Police officers are driven by a dedication to justice and a sense of duty to protecting those in need. The police officers I know have a big heart. They’re compassionate. I sometimes tell them they’re as much social worker as police officer because of the work they do.
“This is particularly in the case of the opioid crisis and the number of police officers engaged in that issue trying to get people into treatment, trying to deal with a problem that in my state is out of control. The number one cause of crime in neighborhoods is the opioid crisis, particularly the person who is committing a crime—whether it is burglary, fraud, or shoplifting to pay for a drug habit—and police officers are often in a habit where they need to step in to get people the help they need.
“Let me give you a specific example of what I mean when I say that police officers put themselves on the line for us constantly. Over the weekend, I got a call and an e-mail about a police officer in Ohio who was injured in the line of duty. He is a Franklin County Deputy. I’m not going to use his name tonight because, for privacy purposes, his name is not out there. But he is a good example of what happens virtually every day in communities around the country.
“He was pulling somebody over for a traffic violation. He was running the tag and he noticed that the person was wanted for violating a protection order after a domestic assault charge. The person didn’t pull over. In fact, the car led the officer on a very dangerous police chase through the streets of Franklin County—that’s near Columbus, Ohio—and finally the chase ended when the suspect’s car crashed. Luckily he didn’t kill anybody else when he crashed that car. But then a shootout ensued. And in that shootout, the police officer was injured. But he did return fire. And when he returned fire, the suspect was shot and killed. This deputy has been treated at the hospital for his injuries. He is now listed in stable condition, thank God. But this just happened last weekend. And, again, it is an example of what the men and women in blue confront every single day. So we’re grateful for the bravery and quick action of that Franklin County Deputy. And, again, I’m encouraged about what we’re hearing about the officer’s condition.
“Sadly, in many case around the country, these officers are making the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. In Akron, Ohio, last week, every year the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7 holds an annual memorial service for its fallen officers. Twenty-six Akron police officers have given their lives. There were a few hundred people there, as I understand it, providing a commemoration of this event. I appreciate that they do that. There will be similar memorials and moments of remembrance across the country this week. Of course, there is a big one in Washington, D.C..
“Sadly, in my home state of Ohio, we have no shortage of police officers whose bravery deserves more than we can ever do to repay them. Earlier this year, there were two heroic Ohioans who lost their lives in the line of duty. On Saturday, February 10, Westerville Ohio Police Officers Tony Morelli and Eric Joering were both fatally shot responding to a 911 call. They arrived and they were immediately shot at.
“These were two amazing officers. Tony Morelli was a 29-year veteran of the Westerville Police Department. Eric Joering was a 16-year veteran and a K-9 officer partnered with his dog, Sam. Both of these men were beloved and respected by members of the Westerville community. I had the opportunity to meet with some of their fellow officers and colleagues, talked with these men and women about what they were like. What kept coming back was an incredible sense of service, great sense of humor. They knew what they were doing was dangerous, yet they felt strongly about doing it and being dedicated to it.
“I also had the opportunity to meet with their wives and kids and families to be able to express our thanks, from all of us, for the service that their husbands and fathers had given. On behalf of this body, I presented both families with flags flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of their courage and sacrifices while protecting the people of Ohio.
“These families, like other police families I’ve gotten to know over the years, are amazing. Their strength is inspiring. In their grief—and it is profound grief—they also told me how proud they were of the services these men performed for us and said these two officers wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. They wanted to be police officers.
“The danger law enforcement officers face has increased in the past few years with the deepening of this opioid crisis and specifically the growing influx of the synthetic opioids, like fentanyl. There is an East Liverpool officer named Chris Green. Last year, Officer Green pulled a car over. There were two people in the car. He pulls up, notices a white, powdery substance. Fortunately for him, he puts on gloves and a mask. He realizes this substance is fentanyl, which by the way is 50 times more powerful than heroin. He books them, takes them down to the station.
“While he is down at the station, he looks at his shirt and he sees a couple flecks of something, a few white flecks on his shirt. As anybody might do he reaches over with his hand like this and just brushes the flecks off his shirt. Unfortunately, the flecks were fentanyl. Three flecks. Touched his skin. He immediately overdoses unconscious on the floor. He is given Narcan—not once, not twice, but four times. He is taken to the hospital. Finally he wakes up at the hospital. He is a big guy, by the way, in good shape.
“That shows how powerful and deadly these drugs are. But that’s a danger that our police officers are running into every day. His police chief said, ‘Rob, he would have probably not made it if we hadn’t been there because he overdosed right there in the police station.’ They got him to the emergency room. Think if he had gone home, not having thought about having brushed off those flakes and gone home, hugged his kids.
“The incredibly deadly nature of these drugs threatens not only police officers but other first responders that come in contact with these substances. It also threatens the K-9 drug-sniffing dogs that come in contact with it. That’s one reason we need to pass the STOP Act, which law enforcement strongly supports, to stop drugs like this from coming in to our communities.
“Law enforcement officers share an unbreakable bond. In response to the tragic deaths of Officers Morelli and Joering, the police officers across the nation have stepped up in big ways to support and assist these two families. There was a beautiful parade in downtown Columbus, a lot of support for the kids. That’s exactly the way it should be.
“We hold these families up in prayer, like those 26 officers remembered in Akron, like the Morellis and the Joerings, and we take a moment this week to reflect on the sacrifices police officers and their families make on a daily basis for all of us.
“I’m honored to be able to be here on the floor this evening to thank these police officers and their families, and I look forward to seeing them here in Washington this week and letting them know that in this chamber, in this Congress, and in this country, we appreciate what they do. We’re grateful for their service and we understand their sacrifices.”