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The Absence Of A President

The Absence Of A President

May 15th each year is designated as National Police Memorial Day.  The day begins a series of local and national ceremonies honoring the sacrifice of law enforcement.  May 15th is particularly a special date because on that date, in the late morning, the survivors of each line of duty death are escorted on the United States Capital grounds and seated in front of the crowd.

I will never forget the first year I attended.  I had been in law enforcement for several years and had already began to focus my efforts and training to make the profession safer.  The dangers of the profession were not unique to me.  my father was a police officer and I vividly remember the devastation when his friend and co-worker, Officer Randy Basnett, was gunned down by a coward.

I met my wife in 1994 and I saw the pain on her face during each holiday because her father, Lt. Pat Grimes, was brutally murdered in 1978 and in 1996 I found myself in an alley after a shootout and carried a fallen officer to an ambulance.  I would never speak to Tulsa Police Officer Dick Hobson again.

So that is why I found it so surprising that first year in Washington D.C., in front of the Capital, that I became so emotional watching the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and spouses of the fallen officers from the year before.  What I saw that year would change my focus forever.   I have often thought of those faces that I saw that day.  I have used that to motivate others, to fight for training and to simply remind myself why I need to continually focus on the safety of the officers around me.

President Bill Clinton addressed those faces that day as he did almost every year of his presidency.  A few years later, I watched President Bush do the same and I watched him stay for as long as it took to meet and speak with every survivor there.  It took hours and each year he became known for the empathy and time he took with the survivors.

This year would have been President Obama’s last year to address the survivors and the nation on Police Memorial Day.

He did not show up and that is unfortunate.

Some will say I am being overly critical and while it is true this is not the first time I have questioned our Commander In Chief, I sincerely wished that he was there this year.

Law enforcement has had it rough lately and honestly it has not been fair. While many officers told me today that they didn’t care whether the President was there, I honestly think they did.

President Obama has had eight opportunities to show the world his support for the profession that protects the home front and in four of those opportunities he did not show up.  That is his record to own.  The ceremony occurs every May 15th and each and every time he missed, it was the President’s decision.  Yes it is just symbolic and appearing and saying a few words may just be that but that is something and in times as these, law enforcement would apppreciate the effort.



About The Author


Travis Yates is a writer and editor at Law Officer. An ILEETA Trainer of the Year, his Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for SAFETAC Training ( and the Founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute (, providing leadership consulting and training to law enforcement around the world.


  1. Police Chaplain

    Well said Travis. Standing in the crowd of my fellow servant-warriors, by far the atmosphere was one of both relief that he didn’t show (Obama being perhaps the most anti-law enforcement POTUS in our nation’s history) along with being dissed that he didn’t have the decency to at least show up. We didn’t even rate the AG. Disgusting to be sure…but then this even is not about them…but about those of us who serve. Tough ceremony to say the least. I thought Katie Pavlich summed it up very well:

  2. groupthought

    So are you going to write an article about Obama awarding 13 Medals of Valor to police officers yesterday?

    If he had gone to his FIFTH Police Memorial Day, you would have chastised him for skipping church on Sunday.

    Asinine articles like this hurt the relationship between police officers and citizens.

  3. RogueCmdr

    President Obama has had eight opportunities to show the world his support for the profession that protects the home front and in four of those opportunities he did not show up.

    • Tim Dees

      Can you name a president who has attended more of those ceremonies?

      • Police Chaplain

        Reagan — all 8.

        • Tim Dees

          I could be wrong, but I don’t think there was an annual ceremony when Reagan was in office. The LE Memorial opened around 1990, I think.

          • Robert Spiegel

            The first memorial service was in 1981. I coordinated the 3,4,5,6. Didn’t have the attendance, but did have the dignitaries. That’s Just FYI

  4. BlueLion

    What did the President do today? He awarded the Medal of Valor to 13 police officers and then gave an address. Traditionally all past presidents do not schedule formal events on Sundays. This president is not anti-law enforcement at all.

  5. Carl Pyrdum Jr.

    A half assed president who made it half the time. Sounds about right.

    • Police Chaplain

      It was lukewarm and condescending at best. He despises us.

      • Tim Dees

        My point was the correct the statement in the article that Obama had never appeared at a memorial ceremony during his eight years in office. And I heard nothing in his remarks that could have been characterized as “lukewarm and condescending.” I suspect that you would condemn anything he said. I’ve lived under ten presidents. and never before seen the level of hate directed at this one.

        • Travis Yates

          “President Obama has had eight opportunities to show the world his support for the profession that protects the home front and in four of those opportunities he did not show up.”

          • Tim Dees

            I misread your text. I apologize. Even so, I don’t think G.W. Bush or Clinton attended more than half the ceremonies during their respective eight years in office.

            Excerpts from Obama’s proclamations of Police Week and his speeches at the memorial ceremony can be found here: I do not see anything condescending about them.

            As I said, there has been more hatred focused on this president than any in my lifetime. I doubt he could say anything that would keep his detractors happy.

          • Travis Yates

            There is no doubt there has been much said about President Obama. We could have a healthy debate on how much is deserved or not but it’s not like former Presidents have not been treated very similar. Clinton was brought up on impeachment and Bush was treated very harshly.

        • Police Chaplain

          You clearly did not read Travis’ article. He correctly wrote, “President Obama has had eight opportunities to show the world his support for the profession that protects the home front and in four of those opportunities he did not show up.” Moreover, I was there last year and in my opinion and that of many others his comments were nothing short of lukewarm and condescending.

  6. Tom Alexander

    Even if he showed up you would still be absent a President!

  7. ChuckfromTacoma

    I would much rather see a leader there that has an honest love and appreciation for law enforcement officers and what you do for us every day. This is a day set aside to honor the sacrifices of those not going home to their families any longer. God bless those of you that keep going back out there, day after day, night after night to stand between us and evil.

  8. Jack Whiskey

    Obama is anti law enforcement. He supports the so called BLM and other terrorist groups and anti American groups. He has turned his back on our allies as well as honest hard working Americans. It’s no surprise he didn’t support American hero’s.

    • ahaz

      BLM is not a terrorist group and never has been. Get a clue and take off the tin foil hat.

      • Police Chaplain

        It is absolutely a terrorist group.

        • ahaz

          It absolutely is not. Can you name a government building that was attacked by BLM? Can you name one abortion clinic attacked by BLM, name one person killed in an act of defiance sponsored by the BLM. The fact is you can’t. The only thing the BLM has done was exercise its 1st Amendment right to protest and force politicians to recognize there is a policing problem in the United States, particularly directed toward minorities.

          • Robert Spiegel

            A group doesn’t have to destroy buildings or kill people to be classified as a terrorist group. When you impede the normal everyday lives of citizens by blocking their access to public sidewalks and street, you are terrorizing the citizens of this Country. You have every right to protest and, as you say, force politicians to recognize there is a policing problem. You don’t have the right to hold hands and block me or anyone else from using a public sidewalk, or block traffic during the busiest hours of the day. NO, you do not have that right. Let me tell you something, the entire problem comes down to respect. Number one, respect is taught in the home, not on the street. A family teaches respect for another person. Police Officers aren’t always right, but two wrongs don’t make it right either. 99% of all Law Enforcement Officers are good guys, that only want to do their job and go home to their family, just like the mailman, the grocer or anyone else that works for a living. No profession is perfect. When dealing with a police officer, first of all, he doesn’t know the entire story, so he’s going to try and take control. If he tells you to sit down, sit down. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about. If you’ve done something wrong then you have everything to worry about. At the end, everything works out and everyone will be happy, unless you have broken the law and got caught. Respect is the key word on both sides. And if you terrorize someone, you are a terrorist group.

          • ahaz

            You have a very ill informed and dangerous view of what terrorism actually is.

          • Robert Spiegel

            So when Hillary Clinton says that the police create fear and therefore are as much a terrorist group as ISIS, that’s okay. Whenever a GROUP puts fear in another, that’s called terror. The people that create that fear are called terrorist. I don’t think my views are ill informed and dangerous, as I could say the same about you being disillusioned. You have lost total incite, as to what I was eluding to. There isn’t a problem with policing in America, it is a total lack of respect for authority. No other way to put it.

          • ahaz

            Can you provide the quote where Clinton compared police to terrorists? I seriously doubt you can. You’re clearly one of those misinformed, flat earth thinking persons that are threat to democracy.

          • ahaz

            I’m sorry but you misinterpreted her remarks. She remarked on how some communities feel terrorized by police violence. Learn to listen to what she is saying instead of hearing what you want to hear.

          • Robert Spiegel

            Isn’t that funny, because that what she always says about everything she says. When she spoke about Director Comey telling Congress about all her lies, she said that we misunderstood what he said. Give me a Fregging break. Crawl back into your hole.

          • ahaz

            English is hard for some people to understand, and especially difficult for those that fail to recognize context. Having said that…I don’t trust her either.

          • Robert Spiegel

            Thank you, but I would have let him do the search.

          • Robert Spiegel

            Just look up her speech at the NAACP Convention. I’m not going to do your work for you. You can’t even use your own name and and you call me a threat to democracy. I guess that’s what I was wearing blue for over 21 years. Never fired my weapon, and saved a number of lives, but what would you know.

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