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Public Safety Congress Ends with Rousing Call-to-Arms

by Jon Melegrito  |  September 18, 2011

Sec.-Treas. Saunders
Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders exhorts public safety officers to continue the fight for public services and collective bargaining rights. (Photo by Luis Gomez)

The closing day of this year’s Public Safety Congress — a gathering of 400 AFSCME corrections and sworn law enforcement employees in Houston — featured a solemn but stirring tribute to the public safety officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders led the ceremony by noting the 10th anniversary of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, “a day when many of our sisters and brothers went above and beyond the call of duty at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.” Saunders added, “we salute their courage and willingness to act in spite of the fear and horror of that tragic day.” These workers were honored in a video, “We Remember 9/11: A Decade Later,” which was projected on a large screen during the tribute.

Saunders also recognized and thanked two officers for their courage, valor and exceptional service: Michael Whitehead, a corrections officer at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn. (Local 391, Council 4) and William Beeler of the Manchester, Conn. police department (Local 1495, Council 15). Whitehead’s quick and heroic actions saved a fellow officer’s life in a life-threatening situation. Beeler, on the other hand, was seriously injured while responding to a domestic violence call.

“We will never forget the sacrifices you make each and every day, the life-and-death struggles that define the vital service you provide,” Saunders said in his closing keynote address. “Because we will never forget, we will continue the fight for the public safety officers on the job today. We will continue the fight for those who will walk in your shoes tomorrow.”

The safety officers in attendance rose to their feet, responding with applause and cheers as Saunders exhorted them several times to “continue the fight” for public services, for collective bargaining rights and declared, “together we will win the fight!”

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