WASHINGTON - President Obama on Saturday praised the nation's police officers for everyday acts of courage, saying they often rush into danger to do "some really tough stuff."
In a White House ceremony honoring some of the bravest, he said America need look no further than the Boston Marathon bombings to know what police are made of: "Police officers . . . running towards explosions, not knowing if there was something more on the way. Law enforcement from different agencies in different parts of the country working together as one united team to identify suspects and bring them to justice."
He said few will ever forget the end of the marathon manhunt in Watertown, Mass. Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a gun battle with police, and residents cheered and gave police high fives after his brother Dzhokhar was apprehended.
"We don't always get that opportunity to stand and applaud the men and women who keep us safe," Obama said. "But they're out there - hundreds of thousands of you patrolling our streets every single day. And we know that when we need you most, you'll be ready to dash into danger, to protect our lives, even if it means putting your lives on the line."
Obama was flanked by award recipients, many in uniform, with families, friends, and other officers looking on from the audience in the East Room.
The annual ceremony honored 43 officers who are recipients of the National Association of Police Organizations' TOP COPS award.
The group included eight officers from the Oak Creek, Wis., police force who battled a gunman at a Sikh temple last Aug. 5. The gunman killed six people before turning his weapon on himself. Obama singled out Brian Murphy, the first to arrive, who, he said, suffered 12 bullet wounds.
He also singled out New York Police Detective Ivan Marcano, who was off duty in the Bronx with his girlfriend when he saw muggers attack a cabdriver. Obama recounted that Marcano was shot inches from his heart yet still gave chase to the suspects - holding his wound with one hand and his weapon with the other. Obama had Marcano's girlfriend stand, saying, "This was his date night! It's unbelievable."
Other honorees included officers from California, Illinois, Iowa, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Wisconsin, as well as three FBI agents from Nevada.
"They'll tell you they're not heroes. They'll say they were just doing their jobs," Obama said. "Today we honor them as TOP COPS because they're half right."
He said they signed up knowing "they might be called upon to do some really tough stuff. But I think that makes them more heroic, not less heroic."
Obama added America owes police officers all the support it can give - including the resources and equipment to do their work.