Biden said it had been a historically difficult period for police, arguing that the wider public didn’t understand the difficulties and that the country would have a harder time finding people to be officers as a result.
“I’ve been coming to this memorial for 40 years, missed a couple, and I’ve spoken to too many police memorials around the country, and it always amazes me how the public doesn’t fully understand what we expect of our law enforcement officers,” Biden said at the 40th annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service.
Biden said being a police officer today “is a lot harder than it has ever been.”
“We expect you to be people ready to stand in the way and take a bullet for us. We expect you to be able to track down the bad guys. We expect you to be able to be the psychologist who talks the couple that are having a violent confrontation together to step back,” he said. “We expect you to be everything. We expect everything of you, and it’s beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the tall expectations.”
“We’re waking up to the notion that unless we can change the environment in which the job can be done, we’re going to have trouble having enough women and men come forward who want to do the job,” said Biden, who ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in recognition of Saturday’s event.
He also commented on the shootings early Saturday of three officers who had been working security jobs at a Houston bar when they came under fire in what police there described as an ambush attack and on the police who defended the Capitol when a mob overwhelmed U.S. Capitol Police and invaded the building on Jan. 6.
Biden did not mention the controversies that have consumed discussions about police, particularly since the killing by police in Minneapolis of George Floyd, which led to a murder conviction for one officer in that city this year.
The White House has backed efforts in Congress to pass police reform legislation, though those talks ended earlier this year over differences between GOP and Democratic negotiators.