In his first public appearance since 12 people were killed and 58 were injured in a shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., early Friday morning, Biden told the law enforcement officers in the room that they are a "special breed."
"This audience understands better than anyone in this country the grief of the families and the courage of undaunted heroes," he told the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), which represents 1,000 police units around the country.
"I doubt you were surprised when the Aurora police were on the scene within 90 seconds," Biden said at NAPO's conference in Palm Beach County, Fla. "The police came in telling people to run out. How many times have you run in to get people out without having no idea with any degree of certainty what you were going to run into?"
"This moment of our grief, the entire nation is grateful for what you do."
Biden said he originally came to the conference to talk about policy accomplishments and promises, which is his usual custom, but he said "it doesn't seem appropriate" based on Friday's events.
In addition to praising the role of law enforcement, Biden focused a large part of his speech on some of those who died and who saved lives in the massacre.
Without mentioning the shooting's suspect James Holmes, who appeared in court Monday, Biden told the story of a woman sitting in the third row who rushed toward the gunman to "apply pressure" to someone's bleeding head. He described the actions of a boyfriend who "literally threw" his body over his girlfriend's to save her life. He talked about the anticipation the six-year old victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, must have felt for getting to see a midnight movie.
"We sing because these are the people who we define as a nation. They are the hymns of our hope. They are the goodness, the decency, the bravery," he said.
Seeming also to be addressing the families of victims, Biden, whose wife and child died in a car accident in 1972, when he was 29 years old, offered some hope.
"The pain will never vanish, but there will come a moment when the memory of your daughter, your son or husband will bring a smile to your face before a tear to your eye," he said.
Although Biden discussed the massacre, he did not address the issue of gun control, even though NAPO has backed some aspects of gun regulation in the past, including the assault weapons ban, legislation prohibiting the purchase of semi-automatic guns, which expired in 2004.
Biden's avoidance of the issue echoes President Obama's recent history on gun control, despite calls from some gun control advocates, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to elevate the issue.
Regardless of the calls for Mr. Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney to weigh in on the issue, Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it's unclear whether that will happen anytime soon.
"I think this stage where this is so fresh and new for so many people, including the people in Colorado, who are still mourning the loss of their loved ones, will be for a long time, many people are still recovering, we're still learning what exactly happened here and more details -- that's where our focus is right now," Psaki said Sunday before the president spoke to victims and victims' families. "And so it's really too early to say how this will play. And again, we're just taking it day by day."