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We Support Our Troops - We Must Support Our Police, Too

WASHINGTON – Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) published an op-ed in the Chester County Press reflecting on the May 14 tragedy and shared what we must do to support the brave men and women who serve and protect us.

By Rep. Chrissy Houlahan

Recently, I was walking in West Chester when I saw a group of people with signs: ‘honk if you support our troops.’ There were consistent beeps as I stood at the corner waiting for the crosswalk, and at that moment I was proud to see our community come together, as we always have, to honor our service members and veterans.

I would later learn that at roughly the same moment that drizzly Saturday morning, a gunman entered a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and killed 10 people.

One of those Americans who was slain by the hate-fueled rampage was a former police officer who returned fire at the shooter, alerting others that there was a threat and giving them time to run for safety. His bravery saved lives - as does the bravery of police officers in our community every day whether we hear about it or not.

In response to the shooting in Buffalo, New York’s governor ordered flags at half-staff.

This time-honored practice of showing respect through our American flag is done in recognition of sacrifice and service. It reminds me of the flags that I see each time I enter the homes of both my mother and my mother-in-law.

When I visit my mom’s house, my gaze is drawn to the triangle-shaped shadow box which houses a tightly folded American flag. It is a flag that once was draped over the casket of my grandfather, a Naval aviator who served more than 30 years. When he was buried, that flag was reverently handed to my mother and her brothers and sisters.

When I visit the home of my mother-in-law, I similarly see a glass box containing another carefully ensconced American flag. This one once festooned the casket of my husband’s grandfather as the sound of bagpipes filled the air. He served his community as a police officer for more than 40 years and was the Chief of Police of Arlington Heights, Illinois. When he was buried, that flag was tenderly relinquished to my mother-in-law and her family.

These flags are treasured representations of the service to one's community and country.

So, as I stood on that sidewalk in West Chester and in the coming hours after learning about the police officer who sacrificed his life so others may live, I thought about how our veterans and police officers both act in service to our community, but aren’t always viewed in the same light or given the same resources. It’s time that changes.

That is why I am proud to be a strong advocate for the Invest to Protect Act that I helped introduce in this Congress. The legislation would create a much-needed grant program for police departments with fewer than 200 officers – the vast majority of police departments in this country and particularly here in Chester and Berks Counties. It would provide investment in de-escalation training and domestic violence support training.  It would provide resources for body-cameras and mental health support for our officers. It would provide support for recruitment and retention for these smaller departments that frequently compete with much larger and better-resourced departments. Importantly, the Invest to Protect Act is bipartisan at a time when too many in Washington want to divide us.

As a member of Congress, I have been engaged in a mission to deliver an American flag flown over the Capitol Dome to each of the more than 60 individual police stations in our Congressional District. This small gesture is an effort to similarly thank our police and their families for the extraordinary service they provide our communities – particularly over these last unusually difficult years.

But I would like to do more than just honor these brave men and women with our flag. We must honor them with the support that they deserve and with the resources that they need to be able to safely continue to protect and serve our communities–and that’s exactly what I’m fighting to do.

The Invest to Protect Act must be brought to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote, and it must be quickly signed into law. I urge you all to contact our Senators and ask them to support this critical piece of legislation too. This legislative initiative is indeed just what our police and communities nationwide need. Let us do more than simply thank the brave men and women who serve and protect us. Let us rather equip them with the tools to succeed. It is only then that they are truly seen.

Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator, and a nonprofit leader. She represents Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Small Business Committee. She is the recipient of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Abraham Lincoln Leadership for America Award which “recognizes members who demonstrate the bipartisan leadership and constructive governing necessary to move our country forward.”