March 01, 2012

Wyden Leads Bipartisan Effort to Award Defense of Freedom Medals to Civilian Police Officers Killed in Wars

Washington, D.C. – During the course of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of civilian police professionals have put themselves in harm’s way by going to help train local police forces. More than 20 of them were killed. Those brave men and women are eligible for the Defense of Freedom Medal – the civilian equivalent of the Purple Heart – unfortunately the bureaucratic process for nomination is so incredibly difficult for the families of those killed that not one has been awarded.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) led a bipartisan group of Senators in a letter urging Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to streamline the onerous nomination method so that these deserving men and women can be honored. The signers to the letter include Sens. Joe Lieberman (I- Conn.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal ( D- Conn.), Al Franken ( D-Minn.), Tim Johnson (D- S.D) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

These officers were hired by companies with military and State Department contracts, like DynCorp and Lockheed Martin, to work alongside local police and the military as part of the International Police Advisors program to help build law and order institutions within war zones that can one day be handed over to local police forces. They serve in an advisory role but are often exposed to the same dangers as servicemembers and local police forces.  When one of them is killed, their employers are expected to complete the nomination paperwork.  Unfortunately, this often did not happen and, as time went on, it became harder and harder for the families of the deceased to take up the task and successfully complete the nomination process.

“IPAs who answered the call of duty, served faithfully, and made the ultimate sacrifice have been denied recognition because of an overly difficult system,” the Senators wrote in the letter.  “We respectfully request that you create a less onerous method for family members and groups like CAA to nominate IPAs and other deserving civilians to receive the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, and see to it that all of those who are eligible for the award because they were killed in the line of duty, receive it.”

For members of the military, the nomination process for medals and other decorations is well-known and efficient. However, a similar process for civilians injured and killed in country is not. When a servicemember is killed or wounded, the platoon will immediately begin the process of nominating that soldier for a Purple Heart. Those IPAs who are wounded often have the ability and the systemic knowledge to navigate the bureaucratic web required to receive their commendations – the families of those who are killed do not. Often by the time families and outside groups are able to begin the nomination process, the necessary personnel have been rotated to other assignments or left the military, making it impossible to complete the paperwork.

Click here to read the letter.