Hello everyone – and thank you Mayor Bing for inviting me to visit with you today and to share with you – and the people of Detroit – what the Obama Administration is doing to help support communities affected by this week’s GM news.
My name is Tom Perrelli and I serve as the Associate Attorney General, the third-ranking official in the Department of Justice. That position gives me oversight over a large portion of the federal government's litigation across the country, as I oversee the Department of Justice’s civil, civil rights, tax, antitrust and environmental litigating divisions. In that job, I help the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General give effect to President Obama's policies and priorities. Central to those priorities is partnership with state and local authorities on issues about which all Americans care.
That’s what I want to talk about today. The Department of Justice is not just a bunch of lawyers sitting in Washington, but a partner every single day to state and local law enforcement nationwide in every community in this country. That is the clear message of the Attorney General, who rose up through the ranks as a prosecutor and understands that for all of us to be successful, the Department of Justice must be a real partner with the police officers who are walking a beat and making communities safer. From the Attorney General on down, we know that we’re only going to succeed if we are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you. That’s why the Attorney General brought together state, local and tribal law enforcement officers to a summit almost immediately after he took office: to hear about what was happening on the ground in the communities, what the federal government was doing well, what it wasn’t, and how we could work more effectively together across a wide range of areas.
My job in that partnership is making sure we back it up by getting needed funding to state, local and tribal communities. I oversee the Department’s offices that give direct support to state, local and tribal law enforcement, including the Office of Justice Programs and the COPS Office, which work every day to support cops on the beat with funding for hiring, equipment and technological assistance.
I’m here today as part of a larger team from the Administration that is spreading out across the country and talking to people who are in communities like Detroit, in which the auto industry has played a special role for the country – and where, today, the federal government needs to play a special role. It has been a little more than 100 days since President Obama signed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act into law, and it’s not hard to see that Michigan has been a real priority. It’s going to take some time, but we believe that the Recovery Act will create or save close to 110,000 jobs in Michigan over the next two years. The Administration already has allocated over $4 billion in Recovery Act funds to Michigan, doing everything from directly creating jobs weatherizing homes for the winter, to providing $390 million in education grants investing in our young people’s future, to helping stabilize the state treasury so that Lansing can keep providing its necessary service. Here in Wayne County, the Administration is investing some $33 million dollars in job training programs. We’re also investing $150 million in Wayne County to improve your transportation infrastructures.
I think those are all important projects, and we’re working hard to make sure the money is well spent. I meet with the Vice President to talk about the Recovery Act a couple times a month, and each time, he sends us home with two messages: First, get the money out to people who need it as soon as possible. And second, protect the taxpayers’ money. The President and Vice President have committed to unprecedented transparency and accountability for programs under the Recovery Act. I think you would be proud to see how this Administration is operating here, from the very highest levels. Our folks are really working hard to put those messages into action, as we have put extraordinary demands on them to get the money out as quickly as possible without compromising one bit on making sure that taxpayer dollars are being well spent. I know this process takes some time, but we need to do this right.
I want to focus on your role in this recovery, and what we at the Department of Justice are doing to try to support you.
We all know what has been happening in our automobile communities across the country. In recent years, in Detroit and communities like it, you have seen factories close, jobs move overseas, and your friends and neighbors worry about what they’re going to do next. And we all know what can happen in times like these. You lose one factory, you lose hundreds of jobs, and people don’t have the extra money to spend they used to. It doesn’t take too much of this before a couple more stores have shuttered, a couple more homes are vacant, and the neighborhood might not feel like it used to. Maybe it even feels a little less safe.
That is where you come in, and we at the Department of Justice need to stand with you. All over the country, committed law enforcement officers like you watch over our neighborhoods and work to make our nation a safer, more secure place. We need you working hard to keep those neighborhoods from taking that one more step in the wrong direction. And you deserve our help. So we at the Department of Justice are working to get out more than $4 billion that the Recovery Act allocated to support for state, local and tribal law enforcement, and other criminal and juvenile justice activities.
We’re doing that in a number of ways. Perhaps our best known program is our Community Oriented Policing Services – or COPS – Office. The COPS Office provides grants, training, technical assistance, best practices and applied research directly to the 18,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies throughout the country, working to give you the resources and help you need in proven crime-fighting strategies. Since 1995, COPS has provided over $12 billion to help law enforcement advance the practice of community policing, and has enabled more than 13,200 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies hire nearly 117,000 police officers and deputies.
The Recovery Act gave us another billion dollars for COPS, so we’ll be able to keep more officers like you on the street, patrolling our neighborhoods throughout the country. That’s 5,000 police officers nationwide for the next four years.
But putting one officer on the street is not about creating one job, and putting 5,000 on the streets does not just create 5,000 jobs. You and I know that putting another officer on the street means a lot more. One officer on the street means that a neighborhood is safer. It means that a store owner feels a little bit more comfortable opening up a new shop, or maybe stay open a little later. It means that the folks who work at that shop don’t feel so nervous on their way home, and they might even stop for a little extra shopping on their way home, or stop for a little evening out. It means that people are willing to make the investment in their community and rent an apartment or buy a home, because it feels like the kind of place that they want to live. This is about making our cities, suburbs, and towns feel like the kinds of places where people can build a family, a business, and a life. If that feeling isn’t there – that feeling that in many ways starts with you – it’s going to take a lot longer for our economy to turn the corner.
And we know that law enforcement needs other assistance as well to succeed. Under the Recovery Act, we’re spending $2.7 billion to support law enforcement in other ways, supporting local and state governments on a wide range of criminal justice activities, including drug and gang task forces, courts and corrections activities, and treatment, prevention and victim services. The problems with Detroit’s crime lab are well-known here, but we hear regularly from law enforcement across the country about the need for forensic specialists and other support personnel to assist you in building a case and analyzing evidence. Our Byrne Competitive grant program provides funding for forensic analysts, and we have been overwhelmed with applications for those positions. We are providing technical assistance to the Fusion Centers that work to ensure that intelligence and information gets to the right place quickly, and our U.S. Attorneys Office is working with the Wayne County Prosecutors Office in a successful gang task force, targeting those who make our streets unsafe. We’re funding the technology that helps law enforcement communicate more quickly and make better decisions, and that helps you detect the concealed weapons that can do so much harm.
We know this is just the beginning, because the need is so great. As I said, we think that with $1 billion, we’ll be able to help law enforcement agencies hire somewhere in the range of 5,000 officers. We received applications to fund over 39,000 positions. Agencies asked for more than eight times the amount of money that we have to spend. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of requests that we won’t be able to fund. But the demand has taught us one thing: this program, and the community oriented policing you are doing across the country, matter a great deal, and the President’s commitment to put 50,000 police officers on the street in the coming years is one that we must fulfill.
I also want you to know that beyond the Recovery Act, people in Washington are working every day on the issues that communities such as Detroit care about. I know that none of us ever really imagined that we would get to a point at which GM and Chrysler are in bankruptcy. The President has committed his support to helping revitalize those companies because doing so is good for your communities and good for America. My colleagues at the Treasury Department have been working tirelessly to help those companies through this process, and I and others at the Department of Justice have pulled together the best and the brightest – many attracted by the promise of this President – to work together on helping these companies recover. Part of every day for me is working with an enormously committed group of people trying to help your communities and the companies that have been central to them become successful once again.
This comes back to what we discussed in the beginning – the partnership that the federal government must have, especially with law enforcement, with state and local authorities. The only real measure of our success is right here: Are people getting back to work? Do our cops have the resources they need? Are our communities safer?
We’re not going to fix this economy with a silver bullet, and the Recovery Act is not a one-time investment. It is going to take sustained investment in our communities to make them safer and fit for long-term economic development. It is going to take consistent funding for the training, hiring and equipment for cops on the beat to make sure that our state and local law enforcement on the "front lines" are getting the support they need. And we at the Department of Justice are going to have to open our doors, and find ways to coordinate better and help each other that go beyond cashing a check. We are proud to be on your team. I know all of us at the Department of Justice are looking forward to working together in every way that we can.
Again, thank you for allowing me to speak with you today – and to talk about where you and your work fits into turning this economy around, and what we are doing to support you. And again, thank you all for being here, for being engaged, and for putting your lives on the line every day.