President Biden on Thursday awarded the Congressional Gold Medal — that branch’s highest honor — to the U.S. Capitol Police and the D.C. Metropolitan Police for defending the U.S. Capitol building during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“You did your duty to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Mr. Biden said during a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden. “The events that transpired were surprising, but not your character, your courage.”
“America owes you a debt we can never fully repay,” the president continued.
The ceremony comes just two days after the U.S. passed a bill to award the two police forces with a medal for repelling a mob of pro-Trump rioters who stormed the building to stop the certification of Mr. Biden’s election win.
“It breaks the heart of the nation to remember that you were assaulted by thousands of violent insurrectionists in the Capitol of the United States of America,” Mr. Biden said.
The Treasury Department made four gold medals for the event.
One each will be displayed at the headquarters of the U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police. The other two medals will be put on display at the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Capitol.
Initially, the Senate passed legislation awarding the medal to Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who led rioters away from the Senate chamber. But the House pressed to award medals to the police departments as a whole.
The House passed the measure in June in a 406-21 vote. All “nay” votes were cast by Republicans who objected to the use of the word “insurrection” in the legislation.
But Republicans in the Senate were more supportive as the measure passed unanimously.
Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said the medals sent a clear message to law enforcement that “we’re united in our appreciation of all they do to keep us safe.”
The ceremony comes the same week that D.C. police revealed two of their officers who responded to the Capitol attack died by suicide in July. The deaths of Officers Gunter Hashida and Keyle DeFreytag bring the total number of officers who have taken their lives after the attack to four.
D.C. Police Officer Jeffrey Smith and Capitol Police Officer Howie Liebengood committed suicide just days after the Jan. 6 attack.
Another officer, Brian Sicknick, died the day after fighting off rioters during the Capitol invasion. He died of natural causes, suffering two strokes, D.C.’s Chief Medical Examiner ruled earlier this year.
All told, 140 officers were injured and at least 17 remain out of work from injuries sustained during the attack, D.C. police said in June.