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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: I appreciate this opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee today to discuss establishing the Congressional Medal of Valor for members of the law enforcement community. On behalf of the men and women of the Drug Enforcement Administration, I would like to sincerely thank the members of the Subcommittee for holding this hearing on the Congressional Medal of Valor, an award that honors the men and women in law enforcement who have made great sacrifices, in some cases even giving their lives while enforcing the laws of the United States. Todays hearing will focus national attention upon our nations unsung heroes, those members of law enforcement whose dedicated service and personal sacrifice are of the highest standard.
March 22, 1921, Agent Stafford E. Beckett, U.S. Department of Treasury, Bureau of Internal Revenue, was killed along with his partner, Agent Charles A. Wood, while attempting to execute a search warrant in El Paso, Texas. The day before his death, Agent Beckett had killed a suspected Mexican smuggler whose funeral drew a large crowd. Agents Beckett and Wood were the first Agents from DEAs predecessor agencies to be killed in the line of duty.
Historically, drug traffickers have resorted to violence to secure and maintain the profitability of their illicit operations. As a consequence of the violence associated with drug trafficking, past and present, Agent Beckett and Wood, represent only the first in a long line of federal narcotics agents who have lost their lives while enforcing our nations drug laws. In the eighty-three year history of the Drug Enforcement Administration and its predecessor agencies, 69 men and women have lost their lives while working to protect our families and yours. This number includes 45 DEA Special Agents and Task Force Officers who have lost their lives in the last twenty-five years. I knew many of these 45 individuals and three of them were personal friends, so I know from personal experience the impact that a death has on family, co-workers, and friends.
On July 1, 1973, the Congress created the Drug Enforcement Administration by combining the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs with agents from the U.S. Customs Service. That same year, the first DEA Basic Agent class graduated and stepped forward to serve this country as part of the law enforcement community. This year, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration, we must remember to recognize the contributions of those men and women who have lost their lives while enforcing our nations laws. As part of this commemorative effort, each graduating Basic Agent class of DEA, is dedicated to the memory of a DEA employee who has been killed in the line of duty. This tribute by DEA Basic Agent trainees to those individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice serves to create a sense of dedication and purpose among our Basic Agent classes, much as the concept of a Congressional Medal of Valor would do for law enforcement officers across the country.
Yesterday, at our training academy in Quantico, Virginia, we held our annual memorial service for the men and women of the DEA who have given their lives for their country. The families of these fallen agents, their co-workers, and the citizens of this country must remember that the deaths of these 45 DEA Agents have not been in vain. Thanks to law enforcement, hundreds of drug lords who shipped cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin to our country and thousands of their surrogates who sold their poison in our cities and towns are now locked in jail, paying their debts to the society they injured. DEA Special Agents, working together with our state and local partners, have put these criminals behind bars and, in the process, made our streets safer.
With the incarceration of these criminals, the violent crime rate in the United States has declined sharply in recent years; from 1993 to 1996, the violent crime decreased by almost 16% and the rate of property crime fell by 17%. These trends followed a general decline in victimization rates over the last three years. In addition, crime has dropped precipitously in our nations major cities. In the nine U.S. cities with a population of more than one million in 1995, violent crime rates have fallen by more than 8%. Effective law enforcement has greatly improved the quality of life in New York City and other major metropolitan areas.
This success has only come at a terrible cost to federal, state, and local law enforcement. Since 1987, nearly 700 law enforcement officers have been slain, and another 696 have been killed in duty-related accidents. There were 159 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 1997, up from 116 in 1996. Tragically, this trend has continued thus far in 1998 as evidenced by the alarming number of police officers killed in the line of duty this year.
As Sharon Felton, the President of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), stated earlier this year, these losses "remind us that the price for a safer America is being paid for by the blood of our law enforcement officers."
In recognition of this, the Drug Enforcement Administrations annual memorial service is held in conjunction with our awards ceremony. At DEA, we believe that it is important that the families and survivors of the Special Agents and support personnel who have been killed in the line of duty see first-hand the bravery, commitment, and excellence of the DEA employees who have earned awards in the past year. Seeing these young men and women step forward to receive the recognition they so richly deserve shows the children, parents, and spouses of those killed in the line of duty that another hero has filled the void left by the loss of their loved one. Those who go on, those who work long, dangerous hours to dismantle organized crime networks, are carrying out the legacy of the men and women who came before.
The Congressional Medal of Valor will serve a similar purpose. It will honor those federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, while also inspiring those men and women who continue to serve their country as members of the law enforcement community. While the Drug Enforcement Administration can honor the memory of a fallen agent, the Congressional Medal of Valor will focus national attention on law enforcement officers who have demonstrated exceptional courage in the line of duty. The Congressional Medal of Valor will provide broad recognition, beyond what a single agency may grant, of the contributions and sacrifices made by DEA Special Agents and support personnel. It is only fitting that these men and women, whose sacrifices have benefited not just a single agency, but an entire nation, receive national acknowledgment for their dedicated service.
For twenty-five years, DEA Special Agents like Everett Hatcher, Enrique Camarena, Kelley McCullough, Charles Martinez, and Kevin Stephens, who is here today, have been shot or killed while serving their country. By carrying on the dangerous work of their predecessors in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), DEA Special Agents have suffered the same, terrible losses in the line of duty. As we honor the sacrifices made by DEA Special Agents, we must not forget young men like FBN Special Agent Mansel Burrell, who was killed at the age of twenty-three by drug traffickers while working undercover in a heroin investigation in 1967, and BNDD Special Agent Frank Tummillo, who was killed at the age of twenty-five during an undercover operation in 1972.
The sacrifices these men made and the service they rendered truly improved the quality of life for us all. Combating drug abuse, drug trafficking, and related crime has made our neighborhoods safer, our families stronger, and our children healthier. This dedicated service has, however, come at a tremendous cost to these men. Theyve suffered debilitating wounds, watched their co-workers die in their arms, and, in several cases, lost their lives. These dedicated, courageous members of the law enforcement community truly deserve national recognition for their service and their sacrifice; they deserve the Congressional Medal of Valor.
I would like to take a few minutes to tell you about four DEA Special Agents, among many, whom we believe personify the heroism the Subcommittee sought to recognize when you envisioned the creation of the Congressional Medal of Valor.
Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena was assigned to DEAs office in Guadalajara, Mexico. Special Agent Camarena had been stationed in Mexico for nearly five years to investigate Mexicos cocaine and marijuana traffickers. Camarena had been monitoring a multi-billion dollar drug syndicate which he suspected extended into the highest reaches of the Mexican army, police, and government.
On February 7, 1985, three weeks before he was due to be reassigned by DEA, Special Agent Camarena placed his DEA badge and service revolver in his desk drawer and headed for a luncheon date with his wife, Mika. As he walked to his truck, five men appeared at Camarenas side, shoved him into a waiting vehicle, and fled the scene. It was the last time anyone, besides his kidnappers, would see him alive.
Special Agent Camarenas body was found one month later in a shallow grave. He had been tortured, beaten, and brutally murdered. Subsequent investigations by the U.S. and Mexican governments suggested a systemic conspiracy involving not only a major drug cartel, but also officials or former officials of several Mexican government agencies.
In 1988, the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth (now the National Family Partnership) coordinated the first National Red Ribbon Week to honor Special Agent Enrique Camarenas commitment to counternarcotics. This program educates youth to the dangers of drugs and touches many lives in a positive way; so, in a very real sense, Special Agent Camarenas death, while tragic, was not in vain.
In February of 1982, while working on temporary detail in Cartegena, Colombia, Special Agents Kelley McCullough and Charles Martinez were kidnapped from their hotel rooms by drug traffickers and a rogue Colombian National Policeman. Although the two Special Agents were told they were being taken to a police station, they were, in fact, driven to a remote location where Special Agent Martinez was shot in the leg. As both Agents attempted to wrestle weapons away from their abductors, Martinez was shot again and McCullough was shot twice. During this encounter, McCullough was able to escape.
Although he had been shot in the hip and knee, Special Agent McCullough ran through the countryside seeking help at several houses while his abductors searched for him. He eventually saw a church steeple and found an English-speaking priest. Disregarding his own wounds, Special Agent McCullough enlisted the help of the priest in finding a law-abiding policeman and returning to rescue Special Agent Martinez. As the three individuals searched on foot for Martinez, they met up with two of the traffickers, including the one who had wounded Special Agent Martinez. When one trafficker drew his pistol and aimed it at Special Agent McCullough, the "real" policeman grabbed the drug trafficker and told McCullough to leave immediately for a town about thirty kilometers away.
Both Special Agents eventually escaped this harrowing experience and recovered from their wounds. Special Agent Martinez is still on active duty at the Aviation Operations Center while Special Agent McCullough retired eighteen months ago.
In a June 1989 investigation into a major Miami cocaine trafficker, an undercover agent from Special Agent Stephens group arranged to meet with the targeted violator to purchase twenty kilograms of cocaine. Special Agent Stephens was assigned to conduct surveillance of the meeting and he took a position in a rear bedroom to monitor the activities from a close vantage point. When the transaction turned into an armed robbery, Special Agent Stephens attempted to rescue the undercover agent and the cooperating individual. In doing so, he was shot several times, including a severe wound in his right arm. As the drug dealer fled through the front entrance, he turned and fired several shots back into the house, striking the cooperating individual in the throat and causing what would ultimately be a fatal wound.
Special Agent Stephens, in spite of multiple gunshot wounds and blood loss, attempted to pursue the trafficker. Realizing the futility of his efforts, Special Agent Stephens returned to the side of the mortally wounded cooperating individual and administered first aid until medical help arrived.
After initial emergency surgery to stop massive hemorrhaging, Special Agent Stephens underwent major surgery to repair nerve damage. After several weeks of recovery in the hospital, Special Agent Stephens began weeks of exhaustive rehabilitative therapy. In October of 1989, he had yet another major operation which enabled him to slowly regain limited use of his wrist.
While striving to resume his career as a Special Agent, Stephens taught himself to write with his left hand and, even more remarkably, he taught himself to shoot (and qualify) left-handed. On February 20, 1990, Special Agent Stephens returned to work under medical restriction.
The individuals responsible for wounding Special Agent Stephens were found guilty of an assault on a federal officer with a deadly weapon and attempted murder of a federal officer. Special Agent Stephens gave lengthy testimony at the trial and he was commended by the presiding judge for his integrity, compassion, and bravery.
The men and women who have died while striving to serve and protect have set a high standard for their successors. Their examples serve as beacons, guiding and inspiring us to reach even greater heights. From these tragedies comes renewal for the men and women who carry on the traditions of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The honor that Congress proposes to accord fallen Agents demonstrates that the law enforcement community has earned our nations continued respect and support. It shows that their sacrifice has not been in vain, for we, both as an agency and as a nation, shall honor their memory by continuing the battles they fought in their lifetime.
Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to express my support for the creation of the Congressional Medal of Valor for members of the law enforcement community. A number of nations, including Canada, Colombia, and India offer distinguished law enforcement officials national recognition for their service to their country. As I expressed earlier in my testimony, I believe that the United States has been blessed with a cadre of brave men and women whose dedication to enforcing our nations drug laws has cost them their health, and in some cases, their lives. These men and women truly deserve national acknowledgment of their service and their sacrifice. They deserve the Congressional Medal of Valor.
Again, thank you for holding this hearing. I would be willing to take any questions you may have at this time.