ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
JAY B. STEPHENS
COPS COMMUNITY POLICING CONFERENCE
JULY 17, 2002
I am honored to have this opportunity to participate in your first national Community Policing Conference and to thank you for all you are doing to keep America safe. At the Department of Justice, we recognize that our nation's state and local law enforcement officers truly are the "thin blue line" who work day in and day out, often at great personal sacrifice, to protect our communities and keep our citizens safe. Thank you for your dedication, your sense of duty, and your service to this country.
Your efforts have contributed significantly to the tremendous professional strides policing has made in America.
Today, our nation's law enforcement officers are better educated, better trained, and better equipped than ever before.
They are more professional. Today, most departments have standards of conduct for officers and policies for holding officers more accountable to the community.
Police work is now more efficient and more effective than ever before; technology has become more available and better adapted for use by law enforcement.
And community policing has spread from a concept debated by academics to established practice in law enforcement agencies nationwide. Today, almost two-thirds of police agencies in this country have formal community policing policies and are now working more closely with their communities to prevent and control crime.
Community policing's problem-solving approach to crime is widely credited with the downward spiral in crime rates over the last few years. Crime has dropped to its lowest level since 1968, as police partner with community residents to solve neighborhood problems that lead to crime.
By walking a beat and sharing in the life of neighborhoods, officers are redefining the relationship between law enforcement and the community. They are building trust, changing perceptions and contributing to a new sense of shared responsibility for ensuring neighborhood safety.
But while law enforcement and community policing have made tremendous strides in recent years, as noted in a recent COPS report, "[t]he tragic events of September 11 . . . have added a new dimension to American policing." The terrorist attacks on America have placed an enormous burden on police departments throughout the country, as law enforcement struggles to meet the new demands of our nation's war on terrorism.
In many departments, officers have been pulled off their beats to bolster security at airports, reservoirs, power plants, bridges, and other critical structures.
Police departments large and small, in every corner of the nation, have lost officers to reserve military duty, putting a severe strain on deployment capability.
Each new anthrax incident or terrorist warning brings an increase in calls for service, pulling officers away from their normal duties to investigate reports of spilled powder or suspicious packages or persons.
And with the FBI's focus on counterterrorism, local and state police are faced with increasing responsibilities in the investigation of bank robberies, white collar crime, and other incidents that traditionally have been handled primarily by federal law enforcement.
While we must wage an aggressive war on terrorism, we must not retreat in our war on crime. We cannot sacrifice either national security or neighborhood safety. We must find ways to leverage our assets so that we can continue to advance on both fronts.
According to a survey conducted last October, police departments across the country need assistance in a number of areas to better respond to both traditional crime and the new threat of terrorism. You need help with intelligence gathering and sharing. You need adequate equipment, including basic personal protective gear, as well as interoperable communications equipment. You need access to the latest law enforcement technology.
And state and local governments - most of which are prohibited from operating in the red - need an infusion for funds to pay overtime and hire new officers. The Justice Department is working to help meet these needs in a number of important ways.
On the intelligence front, the Attorney General and FBI Director Mueller have promised full cooperation with state and local authorities in intelligence gathering and information sharing. They realize that every lead is important to unraveling the divergent strands of potential terrorist networks. And they recognize that there is no federal substitute for local intelligence.
As Baltimore City Police Commissioner Ed Norris put it: "We are the ones on the street. We know what's happening in every block in every day. People need to reach out and get that information."
To share information better, we are working to expand access to RISS - the Regional Information Sharing System - and LEO - the FBI's Law Enforcement Online system - and to coordinate the operations of these two systems. Through the RISS program, we are working to network a number of different federal and state law enforcement information sharing systems. Our goal is to create a coordinated information network that can share information among law enforcement at all levels of government.
To help state and local law enforcement upgrade their own capabilities in this area, the President's 2003 budget requests $50 million for a new COPS InfoTech program. This program will provide much needed assistance to state and local enforcement to upgrade existing information systems, improve their intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities, and work together to share information electronically.
We are also providing equipment and other assistance to help state and local emergency personnel prepare for and respond to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction and other terrorist acts.
Our Office of Domestic Preparedness will award over $300 million this year to states to buy equipment to implement their domestic preparedness strategies, and another $14 million for tactical exercises. ODP also will continue to train first responders and government officials in weapons of mass destruction response, just as they have trained over 140,000 emergency responders from over 4,600 jurisdictions since 1998. They will also continue their extensive technical assistance program. Since 1998, ODP has responded to nearly 3,000 technical assistance requests, and they will support 220 state and local exercises planned for this year.
Although our Office of Domestic Preparedness is slated to become part of the Department of Homeland Security, we will build on these efforts through the resources of the new Department of Homeland Security. The President has asked Congress to provide $3.5 billion in fiscal year 2003 to train and equip police and first responders. Just as importantly, the President's Homeland Security initiatives puts a priority on federal, state and local coordination. And importantly, it sets up a single point of contact for states and locals to provide one-stop shopping for training, equipment, emergency planning, and other critical needs for emergency response, replacing the hodgepodge of federal bureaucracies you have encountered in the past.
Another Justice Department program, the Bureau of Justice Assistance's State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training - SLATT - will continue to provide training in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting criminal activity, including activity inspired by international events. This year, SLATT has added information to its curriculum on specific organizations believed to be involved in the September attacks.
We are also increasing overall Justice Department support for state and local law enforcement in our budget next year. The President's Fiscal Year 2003 budget requests $800 million for a new Justice Assistance Grant Program that would consolidate the Byrne State Formula Grant Program and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grants Program, or LLEBG.
This consolidation will result in increased flexibility in using funds and a simplified application process for participating state, local, and tribal governments. Local jurisdictions will be eligible for direct Justice Assistance Grants on roughly the same basis as they were eligible for direct LLEBG grants. And the Justice Assistance Grant funds can be used for a broad range of purposes, including hiring law enforcement officers, paying overtime, and buying equipment.
The Justice Department also is working to address the problems you encounter in communicating with each other when various departments respond to a crime scene. The AGILE program - - the Advanced Generation of Interoperability for Law Enforcement - - underway in our National Institute of Justice is finding solutions to this problem. We are currently working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and other partners, to develop standards for voice, data, image, and video communication systems that can be adopted by industry and produced for law enforcement.
NIJ also is working to identify and adapt other technology for use by law enforcement. Although such new technologies as face recognition, weapons detection, and penetrating portable radar are still not yet at the point of practical deployment, getting these systems on the street is an agency priority.
At the same time, we are working to develop technology for gathering and testing DNA evidence in the field to enable you to solve crimes more quickly and efficiently and to protect untold numbers of our citizens from potential victimization by catching offenders sooner. Handheld technology will permit officers at crime scenes to field test DNA samples and to seek a match against a national data base.
But in addition to this federal support, I encourage you to look for ways to utilize more efficiently existing resources to meet the needs of your departments in responding to traditional crime and terrorism.
A recent report by the COPS Office and the Police Foundation describes innovative ways police departments used COPS funding, training, and technical assistance to strengthen their homeland security efforts while, at the same time, continuing to meet the needs of their communities through community policing and traditional police services.
For example, using Department of Justice grants, the Chicago Police Department developed a web-based data management system that, in the hours after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, helped police secure potential terrorist targets within the city. The system enabled police immediately to map and analyze the locations of 2,500 critical facilities and then effectively deploy officers to those sites.
We are currently working with members of the law enforcement community to identify and share information about other best practices.
In addition to using existing resources more creatively, I also encourage you to use another resource that is readily available - citizen volunteers. Following the attacks of September 11th, the White House received messages from citizens all across the country who wanted to be of service to their country and their community.
In response the President established the USA Freedom Corps which includes a network of volunteer organizations under the rubric of the Citizen Corps. The Citizen Corps will marshal the skills and knowledge of the American people to help law enforcement respond to terrorism and other crime. Citizen Corps initiatives will be managed at the local level by Citizen Corps Councils comprised of leaders from law enforcement, emergency management, EMS, schools, businesses, civic groups, and other parts of the community.
Several weeks ago, the Attorney General announced a new Citizen Corps initiative to encourage citizens to volunteer in their local law enforcement agencies. The Volunteers in Police Services - or V-I-Ps - program will work to increase the number of law enforcement volunteers and free up law enforcement professionals to better perform their front-line duties. V-I-Ps also will help law enforcement agencies identify ways to expand their use of citizen volunteers, enhance existing V-I-Ps programs, or start new ones.
We have set up a web site at www.policevolunteers.org to help citizens who want to volunteer with their local departments and to provide information about upcoming law enforcement training that will be made available through the Justice Department and the IACP. You can also use the site to share information with your colleagues across the nation about your department's citizen volunteer initiatives.
Another effort under Citizen Corps is to expand the number of Neighborhood Watch programs across the country and to incorporate terrorism prevention into this program's long-time mission of preventing neighborhood crime. Our goal is to double the number of Neighborhood Watch programs across the country.
Through these and other initiatives, the Department of Justice will continue to help our nation's law enforcement officers meet the challenges of policing in the post 9/11 era.
In closing, I want to emphasize the Justice Department's strong commitment to support the critical work of law enforcement across our country. The tragic events of September 11th have given the American people an even greater appreciation for the role you play in protecting our communities. They have seen vividly your sense of duty, valor, and heroism which those of us who have worked in law enforcement have witnessed countless times before.
Hundreds of public safety officers sacrificed their lives on September 11th working to save the lives of others. But what the American people recognized that day has been played out a thousand times before in individual acts of duty and heroism - just witness the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial a few blocks from here. You have become even more critical to the safety and well-being of our people.
While we continue to ask you to walk your beats, prevent crime in our neighborhoods, and protect our communities, we now also ask you to share the responsibility of ensuring our homeland security from terrorist attacks. Rarely have so many asked so much of so few. It is a heavy burden, but one which I am confident you and your colleagues bear with great pride. For yours is a noble purpose and an honorable calling - - to protect our people from harm and to help secure the blessings of liberty for all Americans. As partners, I am confident we will meet this great responsibility.