Gov. Rick Perry's Remarks At the CLEAT Convention
Thank you Ron. I’ve had a lot of jobs over the past 25 years: Air Force pilot, farmer, state representative, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor, and with your help, governor. Ron DeLord has had just one, and that must mean he’s doing a pretty darn good job. Thanks Ron, for making your life’s cause the representation of peace officers, and for your leadership of this fine organization, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
It is my honor to be here with the men and women who protect our neighborhoods and keep Texas families safe. Texans are proud of our well-earned reputation as a “tough on crime” state. As a people, we have a low tolerance for those who flaunt our laws, endanger our fellow citizens, and victimize the vulnerable. And we are proud of our peace officers, the finest in the world, who dedicate their lives to protecting the innocent and ensuring that Texas is a land of law and order.
Today Texas peace officers are working harder and smarter, utilizing better equipment and technology to make more arrests, and taking dangerous criminals off our streets. The result of your vigilance is that Texans are safer in their homes, schools and places of business.
Texas is a state that attracts thousands of new residents from across the nation and even the world each year, people who come to our state to find opportunity, prosperity and safe and secure communities to call home. All Texans not only owe you a debt of gratitude, but our firm commitment to always provide you with the tools you need to do your job. I believe the greatest deterrent to crime is a strong, well-equipped and well-trained police force that is free to enforce the law. And it has been my honor to work with CLEAT on numerous issues that affect the livelihood of law enforcement personnel.
In recent years, I have worked successfully with the legislature to toughen penalties on drunk drivers, crack down on gang violence, and create a statewide DNA database to help law enforcement officials pursue unsolved cases. We have provided funding for new vehicles, helicopters and other crime fighting equipment, while working to make improvements to crime labs and police communications systems.
Because of CLEAT’s leadership, we were able to establish a compensation fund for officers who are permanently injured on the job, raise benefits for the families of officers who are killed in the line of duty from $50,000 to $250,000, and expand the death benefits statute to include more families who have made the greatest of sacrifices. And for the first time in Texas history, if a suspect threatens an officer, that suspect’s name can be entered into a statewide database so that other officers do not walk unknowingly into danger. I have also consistently opposed efforts to restrict a peace officer’s discretionary arrest powers.
Twice I have received legislation that would have hampered the ability of peace officers to make arrests for Class C misdemeanors, and twice I was proud to get out my veto pen and say, “no way, not on my watch.” Any bill that ends up on my desk that removes a peace officer’s discretionary arrest-making authority for Class C misdemeanors will meet the same fate.
For too long now, Texas has led the nation in the number of DWI fatalities. That is unacceptable for a state as great as Texas. Drunk drivers not only endanger their own lives and the lives of their fellow motorists, they threaten the safety of our peace officers conducting traffic, issuing citations, or responding to emergencies on the side of the road. That’s why I was proud to sign legislation in 2003 that gives law enforcement officers the right to obtain a blood sample from any suspected drunk driver involved in an injury accident. This law is giving police and prosecutors an important tool to save lives and help bring drunk drivers to justice.
We also created the Texas Driver Responsibility Program, a new initiative that levies higher penalties on habitually bad drivers and DWI offenders who endanger the lives of their fellow Texans. Because of this program, drunk and dangerous drivers can know that they will face stiff consequences in Texas. And law-abiding Texans can know that we are not only discouraging bad behavior with stiff penalties, but using the proceeds of poor judgment to benefit our trauma centers across the state.
Supporting law enforcement will always be a top priority of my administration because I recognize the commitment you make each and every day. And I believe that government can and should do more to support your efforts to keep Texas safe. In too many instances, bureaucracy gets in the way of police work, and a convoluted process impedes our progress. There is no good reason for a peace officer to spend hours filling out paperwork for a single DWI arrest. The people of Texas need police on the street doing their job, not handcuffed with red tape. That’s why I will be working with state legislators in the next general session to identify ways we can cut through the layers of unnecessary bureaucracy, and help keep peace officers keeping the peace.
Our police put their lives on the line every time they put on the uniform, pull over a suspicious vehicle, or respond to an emergency call. Texans are well aware of the sacrifices you make for the safety of our communities and our quality of life, and we recognize the great cost sometimes paid by those who wear the badge. I was proud to help establish the Star of Texas awards in 2003 to honor peace officers, firefighters and emergency medical responders that make profound commitments in the line of duty. Last month, the state of Texas paid tribute to the first recipients of the Star of Texas awards, including a proud member of CLEAT, Wichita Falls Police Officer Scott Poole, who was shot in the left shoulder and seriously injured while executing a search and arrest warrant with his narcotics team.
In the spirit of a true Texas hero, and in the spirit that drives all Texas peace officers, Officer Poole tried to switch his weapon to his right hand to keep engaging the suspect and protect his fellow officers. Like Officer Poole, your actions and your commitment inspire us all. We recognize that you provide an invaluable service to this state and its people, standing between harm and freedom, and preserving the rights we all cherish as citizens of this great nation. For such courage, such devotion to duty, Texans are profoundly grateful and forever indebted to you. And I want you to know that as long as I am governor of Texas, you will have a strong ally in your efforts to keep the people of Texas safe.
Thank you, may God bless you and protect you, and may God bless Texas.
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