WASHINGTON – President Bush on Monday honored 155 law enforcement officers who died across the country last year.
"I thank those who wear the nation's uniform for working hard to make America a peaceful place for those of us who live here," Bush said to the uniformed officers who attended a memorial service during which the names of the dead were engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Speaking directly to the officers' family members, the president said, "We love you and we thank you for the sacrifice of your loved ones."
Senators, Cabinet secretaries and other federal officials joined Bush on a stage on the Capitol lawn. Country singer Vince Gill sang "Go Rest High on that Mountain" in tribute.
Honor guards from law enforcement departments around the country stood at attention behind the stage, many dressed in dark dress uniforms despite strong sun. At least two officers were pulled out of line and given water after they collapsed from the heat.
While a group of officers played "God Bless America" and other patriotic music on bagpipes, Bush spent more than 90 minutes hugging and talking with family members.
The memorial service is held each May 15, which President Kennedy designated Peace Officers Memorial Day in 1962. A 1994 law allows U.S. flags to be lowered to half staff on that day. Bush has spoken at the service each year since taking office in 2001.
"He's always here. It's great," said Gene Haines, an officer from Tampa, Fla., who has attended the service the last four years.
Meanwhile, the FBI issued its report on law enforcement officers who died last year, its numbers differing from those of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Bruce R. Mendelsohn, spokesman for the memorial, said different agencies classify line-of-duty deaths differently.
The FBI reported that 55 officers were killed intentionally and 67 died in accidents. The final total for the year would be issued in the fall, the bureau said.
Handguns were used to kill 42 officers, while five were shot with shotguns and three with rifles. At the time they were killed, 34 officers were wearing body armor. The FBI did not say whether bullets penetrated the armor in any of those deaths.
It said that authorities solved all the killings.
Twenty-eight officers were killed in the South, 10 in the Midwest, 10 in the West, and five in the Northeast, the FBI said. Two officers were killed in Puerto Rico.
Fifteen fewer officers died in accidents in 2005 than a year earlier, the FBI said. There was no description of how those deaths occurred.