WASHINGTON – President Clinton received a memorial bracelet honoring a slain Maryland state trooper Thursday, as part of a new drug awareness campaign unveiled by a national community anti-drug coalition.
The gold-finished bracelet bears the name of Edward A. Plank, of Salisbury, who was killed Oct. 17 after stopping a speeding car that state police said carried a cargo of crack and powdered cocaine. Clinton was presented with the bracelet by Plank’s wife, Lori.
Clinton hugged her, while several hundred people gathered at the J. W. Marriott Hotel for the coalition’s leadership forum stood and applauded.
“The best way to honor Trooper Plank is to do whatever we can to stop this madness,” Clinton said, later hugging the couple’s infant daughter.
Although Mrs. Plank did not speak during the presentation, she said in a written statement her husband “was very proud to be a Maryland State Police trooper, and he will have that honor forever.”
Plank was 28 at the time of his shooting death and had been a trooper for seven years.
The memorial bracelet was the first given by the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America to help put a face on the more than 35,000 drug-related deaths in this country each year. In Maryland, there were 49 drug-related homicides last year, state police said.
Other bracelets will be personalized by the coalition with engravings of victims’ names, birth dates and dates of death.
People buying the $15 bracelets can request a specific name to be engraved, said Sue Kennedy, a coalition spokeswoman. She said she expects Maryland troopers to request 1,000 bracelets bearing Plank’s name. About half of the proceeds from each bracelet will go toward anti-drug programs, she said.
Plank stopped the car last month because it was speeding near Princess Anne on U.S. Highway 13, a road police said is frequently used by drug runners between New York and Norfolk, Va.
After calling for backup, Plank approached the car to talk to its two occupants. He was shot in the face, police said, and died two hours later.
The two suspects fled, but were later caught and charged with first-degree murder and drug-related charges, according to a U.S. District Court spokeswoman in Somerset County.
Clinton Thursday said government must not lose sight of the importance of fighting the drug problem despite budget battles.
“We can deal with our budget problems in Washington without walking away from our values and responsibility,” he said.
Clinton also urged the media to increase its role in fighting the drug war. “We are asking the media in this country, when it comes to the fight against drugs, turn up the volume,” he said.
He also praised the coalition. “Every community in America should be a part of this alliance,” Clinton said.
National Drug Policy Director Lee Brown agreed.
“These meetings are important because they give us the opportunity to renew our commitment to a common cause,” Brown said. “I have no doubt that together, and under the leadership of our president, we can and will win this fight.”
The coalition was formed in 1992 by the President’s Drug Advisory Council. It represents more than 3,500 members from across the country, including educators, law enforcement officials and others who fight against substance abuse and related violence. Clinton stressed the importance of a national anti-drug network. “The real problem in America is that we haven’t learned how to take a solution that works in one community and use it in the rest of the country,” he said. -30-