Friday, November 5, 2010

Protecting the President: Dangers for All Levels of Law Enforcement

Protecting the president is no small task. It takes tens of thousands of law enforcement officers and billions of dollars each year to ensure any president's safety.

The Secret Service is the elite agency tasked with the mission of presidential protection, but they couldn't succeed in that mission without the critical assistance of officers from local, state, and other federal agencies across the country. From providing motorcade escorts, traffic control, aerial support, and inaugural security, these officers step up to ensure nothing happens to the president in their towns.

And because of that fact, local, state, and federal officers are put in harms way. Eighteen law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty while assigned to presidential protection details or by offenders who planned to harm the president.

Officer Leslie Coffelt
One of the most widely known cases was the 1950 murder of Officer Leslie Coffelt, who served with the White House Police Force (the predecessor to today's Secret Service Uniformed Division). Officer Coffelt was shot and killed during a daring raid on the Blair House by Puerto Rican nationalists who were attempting to assassinate President Truman. Despite being mortally wounded himself, Officer Coffelt was able to return fire, killing one of the would-be assassins and effectively stopping the attack.

Officer Neal Ramsburg
A much lesser known assassination attempt that resulted in the murder of a police officer occurred on February 22, 1974, when a man attempted to hijack a plane at BWI Airport with the intent of flying it into the White House to kill President Nixon. Airport Police Officer Neal Ramsburg was fatally shot by the man as he attempted to stop the hijacking. Another police officer shot and wounded the suspect, who then committed suicide.

Incidents such as the Blair House attack and attempted hijacking are the exception, rather than the rule. The majority of officers who have fallen on presidential protective details have been killed in accidental situations: Motorcycle accidents, vehicle crashes, heart attacks, etc. And most weren't even Secret Service agents or officers. Of the 18 LEOs who have been killed, only six served with the Secret Service or White House Police Force.

We salute all the brave men and women who sacrifice so much to ensure our nation's presidents are always safe. We especially honor these 18 men who gave their lives doing so:

Operative William Craig United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service, US 1902-09-03
City Marshal R. S. St. Clair Malden Police Department, MO 1917-12-21
Captain Edward J. Masterson Marion City Police Department, OH 1922-07-04
Officer Edward Baerwald Wausau Police Department, WI 1928-08-15
Inspector Phillip C. Via Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles - Enforcement Division, VA 1929-01-11
Operative James A. Hollinger United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service, US 1936-07-26
Operative August Adolph (Gus) Gennerich United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service, US 1936-12-01
Officer Leslie William Coffelt White House Police Force, US 1950-11-01
Special Agent Thomas B. Shipman United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service, US 1963-10-14
Officer J. D. Tippit Dallas Police Department, TX 1963-11-22
Special Agent J. Clifford Dietrich United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service, US 1973-05-26
Officer George Neal Ramsburg Maryland Aviation Administration Police Department, MD 1974-02-22
Criminal Investigator Manuel Zurita VII United States Department of the Treasury - Customs Service - Office of Investigations, US 1998-01-06
Detective John Michael Gibson United States Capitol Police, US 1998-07-24
Officer Jacob Joseph Chestnut United States Capitol Police, US 1998-07-24
Officer Steve Bastidas Favela Honolulu Police Department, HI 2006-11-26
Officer Germaine Casey Rio Rancho Police Department, NM 2007-08-27
Senior Corporal Victor Antonio Lozada Sr. Dallas Police Department, TX 2008-02-22