Though he has never served on the force, Floyd has been one of the biggest law enforcement supporters since 1984, when the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund was created to honor those in law enforcement who had been killed in the line of duty as well as support their families, those survivors who would bear the loss lifelong.
During the 27 years since the NLEOMF was born, the organization has been able to raise funds to build the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., a monument dedicated to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty where names of officers are inscribed into annually during a weeklong event in May. The organization is also working on buildilng a National Museum, a first of its kind, to be located across from the Memorial in Judiciary Square. The museum broke ground in October on construction and is scheduled to be complete in late 2013.
TW: You've been working in this capacity since about 1984, which is 27 years. Can you tell me what the greatest part of your job is?
CF: The greatest part of my job, I think, is really two-fold. No. 1 would be meeting the men and women who serve in law enforcement and getting to know what a special breed of people they are. And No. 2: It's being able to educate the American people about the value of law enforcement in this country. Those are the favorite parts of my job.
TW: And then the reverse side of that coin, what's the hardest part of your job?
CF: The hardest part of the job is to see the children of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, the young children, and know that they'll have to grow up not having the opportunity to know their mother or father. And that's very sad, when you think of it that way. A lot of lives are being lost, a lot of families, their lives are shattered. A lot of those kids are spared the agony at the time of death because God allows them to be innocent and not fully cognizant of the tragedy that has befallen them at the time of death. But as they grow older, they're going to miss not having their mother or father there with them, those milestones—graduation day, wedding day, seeing their first kids being born—that's sad to know that this is more than just numbers and names. This is about real people and real lives that are being devastated every time an officer is killed in the line of duty. Every year during national police week especially, we meet those children, we meet the spouses and the parents of these officers who have died and that's the hardest part, is dealing with the tragedy that goes along with line of duty fatalities.
TW: OK. You kind of mentioned earlier that your current job is kind of a surprise. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
CF: Probably a journalist. I wanted to write, write books. To work in the media. But for whatever reason I decided that wasn't quite what I wanted when I got a taste of Capitol Hill. During my senior year of college, I was an intern up there. I decided that that really excited me. It was a place where I felt like I could make a difference. So I started down this path, working for that congressman and that really changed my career goals. And then I just kind of moved into this job naturally because I really cared about law enforcement and I wanted to see that memorial built. And it was a privilege, really, to have that opportunity to lead the effort, so I didn't want to walk away from that privilege and challenge and was able to succeed and we've been doing it ever since.
TW: You also mentioned the differences between 1974, as the deadliest year for law enforcement, through today, there have been a lot of changes in technology available to law enforcement. Our medicine practice has gotten better to treat things like gunshot wounds. What would you say is the single most important product that you've seen developed since 1984.
CF: I would have to say it had been invented before '84 but it certainly has been improved upon ever since, and that would be bullet-resistant vests. They used to be bulkier and uncomfortable. Fewer officers were willing to wear the vests because of that. And as the technology improved, and as the technology improved and the vests became lighter weight and more comfortable to wear, more officers started wearing them. And as a result, many lives were saved. I mentioned in the last 20 years or so, we've saved more than 3, 000 law enforcement lives because those officers were wearing those vests. So I think vests are clearly the No. 1 piece of safety equipment that any officer can have protecting them against criminal assault but also against traffic accidents. A lot of vests have saved officers from the blunt force trauma when they hit the steering column. So it's not just the shooting that they'll protect you from but a lot of other reasons.
And then the other piece of equipment that was invented since '84 that I think has tremendously improved the safety of our officers is Taser stun guns. These stun guns allow officers to keep a safe distance from a resisting felon and as a result officers don't have to engage in hand-to-hand combat with those criminals. I've talked to many officers who tell me that other than their lethal weapon that they carry with them on their gun belt, there's no [other] important piece of equipment that they have than that Taser stun gun because criminals just don't resist when they know you have the Taser and they know you'll use it. And those criminals that do resist, you keep a safe distance from them and you tase them to get them to reply to your request that they put their hands behind their back or whatever else the request might be. [They] basically give themselves up so that you can make the arrest without a violent confrontation. So Taser stun guns I think are No. 2 to the vests in terms of importance in reducing injuries and fatalities to officers.
But I think ultimately, you can't discount training. We are so much better today about training our officers, preparing them for these very dangerous situations that they are going to confront that they're able to deal with them much more effectively and safely. So certainly better training coupled with the better equipment has really made a difference in saving police lives.
TW: After 27 years, what motivates you to get to work everyday?
CF: Well, right now I want to make sure we build this national law enforcement museum. It's quite a challenge and quite a privilege but it's hard work and we're doing our best to make sure that museum gets built. So that drives me everyday to want to get up and raise money and raise awareness and get more partners on board and collect more artifacts and I can't wait to see that museum open. Because when it does it's going to change the way people think about law enforcement in this country. So it's been a big motivator to me and to this organization for the last 10 years.
TW: OK. And then I was going to see if, when I ask you what is one of the most memorable stories that you tell that's related to your job, whether it be something you remember of a police week of years past or maybe a conversation with a particular officer or any kind of story that you remember from your career that would be enlightening or you know someone in a different career would not have come into contact with or learned?
CF: That reminds me of a story years ago from my early days on the job. I met a woman named Vivian Eney and Vivian had lost her husband named Chris Eney who was a sergeant with the U.S. Capitol police. He was the first U.S. Capitol police officer to die in the line of duty. He was shot and killed during a training exercise. And I went and I talked about this memorial that we were planning to build at that time and Vivian was part of this survivor group that I talking to and I told the group how much we cared about them and wanted to remember their fallen loved one and we wanted to build this memorial to do so. And Vivian called me, I didn't know her at the time, but she called me an hour or so later and said that she was angry. She did not necessarily believe people did care as much as I had said we did. And she had a bad experience. Her husband, when he died, didn't get any notes of condolence from members of Congress. She didn't get the kind of expressions of condolence that she might have anticipated. And she felt that people didn't really care. And it took awhile to convince Vivian, but ultimately she became a member of our board of directors and she helped us build the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. And she became a real leader in the effort and she remains one of my closest friends to this day. And Vivian's story reminded me and impressed upon me one thing: A card or a phone call—anything at that moment of time when you're suffering like a survivor does when they lose a loved one is important. And I said to myself that day, if a note, card, condolence or a phone call could mean that much to a surviving family member at the time of their loved one's death, if it could mean that much to them, then what would a national monument, what would a national memorial mean to them? What would a national law enforcement museum mean to them? And I realized how important these symbols are—it's not just a symbol, it goes far beyond that. It really makes a statement to these survivors that their loss is shared by all of us, that we will always remember and honor their loved one, and that we will always remember and honor them, the survivors left behind. So that was always a very important moment in my life that I had an awakening about how important this memorial was going to become. And it made me that much harder to build it and we're doing it still to this day.