Commentary: Support for law enforcement paramount after Capitol riot

U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel in a Jan. 3 swearing-in ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Former Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel, now a U.S. congresswoman, in a Jan. 3 swearing-in ceremony in Washington, D.C.
(Courtesy of U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel)

Last Sunday, I raised my right hand on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and promised to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Serving in the United States Congress and representing the community that I love is my American dream. The opportunities I have been given are only possible in a country like ours.

I am an immigrant to this country. I was born in South Korea, and after living in Japan moved to the United States. English is my third language, and I still speak with an accent. I always will.

I came to Washington to build on the work I accomplished and championed as a member of the California Board of Equalization and the Orange County Board of Supervisors. I am a tax fighter, and I’ve made it my mission to help Orange County families, businesses, and workers thrive.

In Congress that mission will continue. I’m committed to supporting our nation’s heroes, which is why after months of unrest, last summer I created a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day in Orange County. On Saturday, Jan. 9 our nation recognized National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, but every single day our law enforcement officers deserve our thanks and support. Last week that became clearer than ever.

On Jan. 6 our country watched in horror as hundreds of violent and destructive rioters smashed through the windows and doors of the U.S. Capitol, on a mission to hurt and destroy. Lives were lost, including Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who was attacked and gravely injured by the rioters. Tragically, just a few days later Officer Howard Liebengood died off-duty by suicide. This loss of life is senseless and devastating. This never should have happened.

Our leaders have a responsibility to calm, not instigate. In the face of violence, they have a responsibility to fully equip and support our law enforcement, instead of leaving them alone to battle a mob of thousands. We are owed answers. The families of those we lost are owed answers. And I will work with my colleagues in Congress to make sure that this never happens again.

The domestic terrorists that broke into our nation’s most revered building and threatened the lives of countless public servants and federal officials should be fully prosecuted. I am confident that our U.S. Justice Department will hold them accountable.

Every single day, hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers around the country put themselves in harm’s way to protect our families and our communities. From the local county sheriff answering a 911 call, to the National Guardsman helping a family evacuate and rebuild after a devastating wildfire, these men and women are our heroes. In a crisis, these officers run toward danger.

When members and staff were told to shelter in place and to avoid the chaos erupting throughout the Capitol complex and to avoid the chaos erupting throughout the Capitol complex, Capitol Police officers actively confronted the dangerous mobs. Hundreds of police officers from neighboring precincts and counties outside of the District of Columbia mobilized to support the men and women working to clear the Capitol and keep us safe.

Thanks to the bravery of these men and women, your government was back at work Wednesday evening, just hours after the chaos and violence spread throughout our hallowed halls. Thanks to their bravery, our Capitol was once again secure.

I will never forget the sacrifice of the officers that kept my colleagues and our staffs safe. Jan. 6 is a day we will always remember, and a day I pray we will never have to relive.

But our nation is resilient, and our Capitol will always be a shining symbol of hope and opportunity. This was my first week as your Representative in Congress. I was humbled and grateful to walk through the halls of the Capitol and to take the oath of office as one of the first Korean American women to ever serve in Congress. We are blessed to live in the greatest country on earth. I urge you to thank a law enforcement officer today, and to join me as we work together to strengthen and protect our democracy from those who seek to do us harm.

Michelle Steel is the U.S. Representative for California’s 48th District.

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