As is often the case, there are always special people to thank for their generous support, and again this year, we thank Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, who have done so much to make sure this occasion, the 30th time we have come together to honor our fallen heroes, matches the nobility of its purpose.
This year, we recognize for the very first time Police Officer William E. Griffin, born on September 10th, 1898 and killed in the line of duty June 10th, 1923. He was shot at age 24. With the addition of Patrolman Griffin, the memorial roll for the Metropolitan Police Department in the City of St. Louis stands at 165.
Honoring the memory of those lost is a defining feature of who we are. Every culture has its own rituals, created so that people may come together, so we can remember.
Policing is a culture, in many ways its own. It's a brotherhood and a sisterhood. Unlike any other profession, we are unique. We’re unique in the work we do, in the tools we use, in the things we see, and above all, in the risks we share.
Most of the people in this room know exactly what I am talking about and can remember the exact moment when those risks became painfully real.
For me, it was Bob Stanze. We were Academy classmates. He was killed on Tuesday, August 8, 2000. It changed my life.
As we sit together this morning, I ask each of you to start by remembering the one…the officer who, in their death, taught you that the world was unfair and unjust. Remember that officer, and think back to what you felt in the moment of losing them.
That feeling is exactly what we have come here to preserve.
Yet at the same time, we must preserve something else: our sense of justice, our capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, our compassion and most of all, their service.
In just the first four months of this year, there have been at least 16 of our fellow officers killed by gunfire in this country.
That is wrong.
Line of duty deaths are down in every other category, but the number of officers murdered by firearms is up over 100% year to date.
I say again, that is wrong.
Here in St. Louis, like you, I worry about our officers every day. In that same four month period, our officers have seized nearly 700 guns, many from the hands of criminals, up dramatically from this point last year.
When I think about those 700 lethal weapons taken off the street, I think about the lives made safer as a result. Today especially, I think: that's 700 fewer chances for anyone to take the life away from another member of our family.
Because the best way to honor our fallen is by guarding the safety of all who serve.
Thank you. May God bless you, and may God bless our police officers.
St. Louis Police Foundation 2016 Memorial Breakfast Video