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Public Safety Officers Honor Fallen, Pledge to Mobilize

By Clyde Weiss and Jon Melegrito
Michael WhiteheadOfc. William Beeler
Honor and Safety | Michael Whitehead (left) of Local 391 (Connecticut Council 4) is honored as Correctional Officer of the Year. Ofc. William Beeler of Local 1495 (Connecticut Council 15) is honored for heroic actions above the call of duty. (Photos by Luis Goméz)

More than 400 AFSCME-represented corrections and sworn law enforcement employees from across the nation gathered in Houston, Texas, in September for the third, bi-annual Public Safety Congress.

In his keynote address, Pres. Gerald W. McEntee said that despite unprecedented attacks on AFSCME members’ jobs, benefits and collective bargaining rights, the union has the opportunity to “strengthen our vital partnership and work together as never before.” He added that AFSCME International and our 130,000 members in the public safety field “are united and strong.”

A special ceremony led by Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders featured a solemn and stirring tribute to the public safety officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

He noted the heroic contributions of AFSCME members to the 9/11 rescue and recovery effort and thanked two officers for their courage 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).

In his keynote remarks, Saunders acknowledged the “life-and-death struggles that define the vital service you provide each day. We will continue the fight for the public safety officers on the job today, and for those who will walk in your shoes tomorrow.”

The three-day event featured speeches from City of Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker and Texas State Sen. John Whitmire, plenary sessions, roundtable discussions and workshops on a variety of issues. An honor guard composed of members of AFSCME Texas Council 7 presented the colors during the opening ceremony.