Supporting Alaska's Law Enforcement Community and Honoring Sergeant Allen Brandt
Mr. President, the holidays are nearly upon us. It is the time when Christmas cheer descends on us, when hearts open and we reach out to our neighbors, friends, and even strangers, particularly those who are in need.
Today I want to reach out to the police force in Alaska. These men and women put their lives on the line every day for us, and anyone who has seen the news in these past few months knows it has been a particularly difficult time for police officers all across the country, who have faced unprecedented levels of violence--deliberate attacks. Across our great Nation, our men and women who get up every morning with the mission to protect us are having their lives taken. As of December 5, there have been 134 fatalities against police officers this year alone. That is up by more than 20 percent from last year. Let's face it--they are being targeted. Some of them are even being ambushed.
Just a few minutes ago, right here on the floor, the Presiding Officer gave some very eloquent remarks about what has happened in Colorado. These kinds of acts are happening all across the country - Iowa, Massachusetts, Texas, California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and unfortunately more than once in recent weeks in my home State of Alaska.
One brave Anchorage police officer, Arn Salao, was a victim of a cowardly ambush in Alaska, but thankfully he survived. The incident resulted in the arrest and the killing of an accused murderer who has now been accused of killing five others in Anchorage.
Unfortunately, another officer involved in a shooting in Alaska--this time in Fairbanks--wasn't so fortunate. On the morning of October 16, Sergeant Allen Brandt, an 11-year veteran of the Fairbanks Police Department, responded to reports of shots being fired. After pulling his vehicle over to question a suspect, Sergeant Brandt was shot five times. After being treated for several days, Sergeant Brandt was expected to survive. He even came to testify in a remarkable act of courage in front of the Fairbanks City Council on October 21. His testimony was riveting, but in a devastating turn of events on October 28, just a few days later, Alaskans learned that Sergeant Brandt had succumbed to the complications related to his injuries in recovery. The hopes of our entire State were crushed upon hearing that this brave, young public servant had passed away. Alaskans from every corner of our State held vigils and continue to mourn his loss.
There was a memorial service in Fairbanks attended by thousands. I happened to attend that with my fellow Alaskans. It was one of the most moving services I have ever attended. At the memorial service, Sergeant Brandt's testimony from just a few days earlier in front of the Fairbanks City Council was played. There, he was speaking to all of us on these important issues. It was so powerful and so moving to see this young man so articulately speak about issues that don't just impact Fairbanks, AK, or Alaska, but the whole country.
Sergeant Brandt left behind his wife Natasha and their four young children under the age of 8.
I have talked about his testimony that he gave in Fairbanks that was played at his memorial service, which was so powerful. Only a few days earlier, he had been shot. He gave his testimony, and then unfortunately he passed away. I wish to read several excerpts from his testimony because I think it reflects not only the importance of this issue, but it shows this young man speaking on something that impacts the whole country.
Here is the testimony he gave at the Fairbanks City Council. There was thunderous applause, of course, when he walked in--a man who had been shot five times just a few days earlier. He stated:
I am humbled by the honor, and I'm no exception to the rule. We have many fine officers that are far greater and have done better things than I have. I do appreciate the community's support and I know sometimes it's hard for officers to see whether or not the city supports us, but I've always said that by-and-large, the city does support its police officers. And you know we're never going to have the support of the criminals ..... and to tell you the truth, they don't have my support either. However, I do support their constitutional rights and their free exercise of them.
I've seen the hand of the Lord in my situation. Can you believe I was shot five times through the legs and I walked into this room. There's a bullet, it's almost healed up, but right here over my heart where my vest certainly saved my life there.
I appreciate the support of the community, the Fairbanks Police Department, the Anchorage Police Department, the Alaska State Troopers, and other officers. But our officers do a very hard job, and they need your support. Unfortunately, when an officer gets shot or something bad happens, it's just human nature--we don't think about things that we need until something bad happens. I don't blame anyone for that. But, you know, think about our officers. I've worked for the city for 12 years, probably ten of those years I worked weekends when my friends are off. I work at night and sleep during the day. I don't sleep with my wife. And the other officers, too. I was never called a racist until I put the uniform on. You know, once you put a police uniform on, you're a racist. I can't ever let my guard down, not at Fred Myer and not at my house. I travel everywhere armed. Always vigilant. Always watching. And the other officers over there, they're the same way. So, we need your support. Not just when bad things happen. But the officers over there do a hard job. And most of the time it's thankless. And we've really appreciated the outpouring of support that's comes from this.
He concluded his testimony. He called out to one of his buddies:
I think Sergeant Barnett's here, and I want to thank him. Sergeant Barnett was the first one on the scene, and until he got that tourniquet on my leg, I didn't think I was going to survive because I was bleeding a lot.
Let me leave you with this last story that he told his fellow Fairbanksians:
The night I was shot, I had my four kids and my wife on my bed. I read them a story like I always do. After the story, I told them, I think I am going to get shot tonight.
Can you imagine saying that to your kids? He continued:
And it happened. In the middle of the gun battle, that is all I could think about.
He concluded by saying this:
Can you imagine telling your kids before you go to work that you are going to get shot? Well, that is what our police officers deal with every day. I am not complaining, but I just want you to know what it is like, the life of a police officer.
Then he looked at the audience and said:
But we appreciate your support.
That was his testimony. Only a few days later, he passed away. As I read that testimony again, I am struck by Sergeant Brandt's extraordinary selflessness. At the same time community members were applauding his bravery, Sergeant Brandt sought to remind us of the bravery of his brothers and sisters in blue, the unsung heroes who face the same dangers he did but without public fanfare or an outpouring of support.
Having met with first responders all over my great State, I know that Sergeant Brandt's extraordinary selflessness is not an outlier, and it is not an exception; it is a hallmark of our police force and the fire department. They wake up each morning knowing that today may be the last day they get their kids ready for school, the last day they kiss their spouse goodbye. Today they may be asked to lay down their life to save another. That is a heavy burden. It is a burden that is shared by the spouses and children who have seen too many sleepless nights, praying for the safety of their mom and dad.
In conclusion, over the holidays we are all going to come together with family and friends to celebrate the holidays. We are going to remember our troops overseas. But let's keep in mind the sacrifices being made by our brave officers, as well as their families, who will be on the beat during the holidays just like our members of the military, protecting us.
On behalf of my fellow Alaskans, I want to express my profound gratitude and thanks to our proud law enforcement community for all they do to keep our communities safe.
I yield the floor.
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