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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Obama Honors Nation's 'Top Cops'

Aired May 12, 2011 - 13:56   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- your president, Tom Nee, you're your executive director, William Johnson.

And most important, congratulations to the 30 officers, sheriffs, detectives, investigators, agents, who are behind me, our nation's top cops right here.

Yes, got the Montana crew hollering. That was Missoula, right? There you go, Missoula.

Yes, I know the families are bursting with pride for your loved ones' accomplishments, but your love and support has had a lot to do with those accomplishments. So again, we are grateful to you.

This is the third year I've had the honor of welcoming America's top cops to the White House. It's kind of like the Heisman Trophy presentation for law enforcement.

But I just spent a little time with these men and women inside, and I can tell you with certainty, they carry themselves with such humility. They don't say to themselves, this is it, this year I made top cop. I'm going to train, put in long hours, and go to Washington and stand with the president. That's not why they do what they do every single day.

None of them put together a PR package for our consideration. Some of them are still recovering from gunshot wounds suffered in the line of duty. Some have heavy hearts for partners who have been lost, and they commit themselves to their memory. And all would put forward others in units who would say just as brave or just as dedicated or just as capable or just as deserving of this recognition.

But you know, a moment came when their actions earned recognition. It wasn't talk, it was what they did. They didn't know it that morning, as they pinned on a badge or strapped on a vest or holstered a weapon, but that day something would happen than would make them worthy of this honor, whether it was a random act of bravery or a successful outcome that was the result of months or even years of painstaking and dangerous police work.

The men and women we honor today have responded with courage under withering fire to defend the innocent. They skillfully rescued women and children from armed gang members, and have saved the life of a shooting victim when there wasn't time for paramedics to arrive.

They've carried out a dangerous and deadly sting operation to get drugs of the streets. They've burst into a white, hot building to save paralyzed senior citizens whose beds were engulfed in flames. They've dogged pursued an 18-year-old cold case until justice was done.

And they've investigated last year's attempted Times Square bombing, extracting a full confession and wealth of actionable intelligence leading to arrests that have made this country safer.

Think about the strong stuff that takes. Think about the character it takes to refuse to close the books on a case forgotten by all but the victims' families. The coolness it takes to talk down an armed and hostile criminal. The courage it takes to run into flames or press forward through a hail of bullets when every natural instinct would say, stop, think about yourself.

They'll be the first to say that they've been trained to do it. Some of them will argue they're not heroes. They'll tell you a badge doesn't bestow courage, that special training or physical strength doesn't make you braver, that heroism isn't something made evident only after the chaos of a firefight.

I think when you talk to most of these guys, they'll say heroism lies just as much in the action of their fellow officers and the hearts of the fellow citizens they've sworn to protect. And it's true. Heroism is all around us, inside of all of us, just waiting to be summoned.

But I'll tell you what, when gunshots ring out and fires burn hot, when injustice goes unanswered and innocent cry out for help, it's one thing to talk about courage, it's another thing to respond swiftly, decisively, heroically, with little regard for yourself and complete regard four your fellow man. And these are the men and women who actually responded. These are America's top cops who protect and who serve, who walk the beat, who answer the call, and do the dangerous and difficult work of forging a safer, stronger America, block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood.

So each of you deserves this moment in the sun -- and it is sunny -- because tomorrow we know that you and your fellow first responders will be back on your diligent duty, looking out for us, looking out for one another, looking back at times with fallen partners, determined to make sure that their extraordinary sacrifices were not in vain. And we will be standing behind you as one nation and one people, proud of your actions, awed by your courage, and grateful for your service on our behalves.

So, to all of you and to all who wear the badge, thank you for keeping us safe.

God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

We're going to knock down this podium, and let's take a picture with America's top cops. (APPLAUSE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: Nothing like a whole heap of praise coming from the president of the United States, and certainly well deserved for all of these men and women in uniform. Top cops, as the president calls them, and they're being honored there as we speak, live there at the White House on a very sunny day in the Rose Garden.