Justice News

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli on the First 100 Days of Recovery Act at Law Enforcement Symposium on Violence Against Women
Fort Washington, MD
United States
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good afternoon everyone and thank you for that introduction. I am Tom Perrelli and I serve as the Associate Attorney General, the third-ranking official in the Department of Justice. As part of my job, I oversee the Department of Justice’s civil, civil rights, tax, antitrust and environmental litigating divisions, as well as all of our grant making programs for state, local and tribal law enforcement. That includes the Office on Violence Against Women, which does terrific work with law enforcement across the country by, among other things, sponsoring conferences such as this one. I am honored to speak with you today, and I want to thank you on behalf of the Obama Administration for everything you do to keep our communities safe throughout D.C., Maryland and my home since I was born, the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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. I am especially appreciative that you are here today, focusing on domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of intimate abuse. As all of you know, every day, mothers, sisters, daughters and wives fall victim to domestic violence. This violence has devastating effects on not only the victims, but other family members and entire communities across the country. We have accomplished a lot in the last 15 years since Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, and federal, state and local authorities began to work as partners in bringing an end to the violence. But much remains to be done.

America needs you working hard in this fight. And the Department of Justice needs to stand with you. At every level of the Department, from the Attorney General on down, we are committed to restoring a robust partnership with state, local and tribal law enforcement to bring safety to America’s communities. That began when 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. And we will continue to rebuild those relationships because we know that only by working together as a team can we have the greatest impact on crime and public safety.

President Obama and this DOJ know that the current economic difficulties faced by the country are putting enormous strains on law enforcement. That is why the President fought to ensure that, as part of his effort to restore the economy, the federal government was supporting the men and women who are on the front lines in local communities all across the country. I stand here today – on the 100th day since the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law – to tell you what we’ve done to invest in you and others who keep our communities safe every day.

We all know that the Recovery Act is helping to stimulate the economy by directly saving and creating jobs across the country. But it is also helping the economy in the same way that you and your colleagues help the economy every day: by making our communities safe for our fellow citizens to keep their businesses open, get to and from work, and go about their daily lives. Without safe streets, new businesses do not open and existing businesses shut down or reduce their hours, people do not buy homes or rent apartments, and economic renewal has little hope. We have seen this dynamic in major cities and rural areas throughout the country. But if we make communities and families safe, we provide the building blocks for our renewed economy.

The Recovery Act recognized this by including more than $4 billion for state, local and tribal law enforcement, and other criminal and juvenile justice activities. At the Department of Justice, we’re getting that money out through the Office of Justice Programs, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and the Office on Violence Against Women.

I don’t want to read you a laundry list – but I do want to highlight the funding in the Recovery Act that is supporting the work and initiatives you have been discussing this week, in no small part because I want you to know all of the areas in which you can be asking for our support. Although we are well along the way to getting money appropriated by the Recovery Act out to local communities, the Department continues to work to support state and local law enforcement in all of these areas, including through funds budgeted in the 2009 appropriation and sought for 2010.

I’ll start with the Office of Justice Programs, which provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP is responsible for carrying out more than $2.7 billion of Recovery Act grants. Funding is available through initiatives such as the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant – or JAG – Program, the Byrne Competitive Grant Program, Assistance to Rural Law Enforcement to Combat Crime and Drugs, grants for Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, and grants for victim compensation and assistance.

This means increased funding for local governments and states to support a wide range of criminal justice activities, including drug and gang task forces, courts and corrections activities, and treatment, prevention and victim services. There are also competitive grants available to help state, local and tribal communities improve the capacity of local justice systems, including training and technical assistance. One of the things we hear most from local law enforcement is the need for forensic specialists and other support personnel to assist you in building a case and analyzing evidence. We fund such personnel through the Byrne Competitive Grant Program.

The Recovery Act funding also includes an investment to support the Department’s commitment to spurring other technological advances that support law enforcement activities. It provides funding to support projects that address things such as interoperability, communications and decision making, information sharing, electronic crime, and concealed weapons detection.

We’ve distributed over $1.1 billion of this funding to agencies in need, including nearly $70 million in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and we are quickly processing grant applications to ensure that the rest of the funding gets to our communities as soon as possible. The Office of Justice Programs team is doing great work, 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. The President and Vice-President have committed to unprecedented transparency and accountability for programs under the Recovery Act. I know this process takes some time, but we need to do this right.

Perhaps the Department’s best known program for supporting local law enforcement 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. Since 1995, the COPS Office 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 to hire nearly 117,000 police officers and deputies through more than 38,000 grants.

This support from the COPS Office provides much-needed resources and assists in promoting proven crime fighting strategy. The Recovery Act provided $1 billion to create or save law enforcement officer jobs, which will both stimulate our economy and promote community policing by putting more officers and deputies on patrol in neighborhoods throughout the country.

This grant program has provided the Department with a true understanding of the difficulties facing law enforcement departments today. We estimated that our $1 billion will fund somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,500 jobs. The COPS Office received applications from over 7,000 law enforcement agencies for $8.3 billion in requested funds, to create or save more than 39,000 law enforcement officer jobs. 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.

The third area of the Department’s focus, and the work at the heart of what you are doing at this symposium, is in the Office on Violence Against Woman or OVW. In the Recovery Act, OVW received $225 million to support five of its grant programs, including the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program, the Transitional Housing Assistance Program, the Grants to Tribal Governments Program, and funds to support state and tribal Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Coalitions.

STOP stands for Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors. As its name suggests, the STOP Grants promote a comprehensive approach to responding to domestic violence. The program funds a variety of programs aimed at reducing domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault crimes, and seeks to encourage everyone in the community to work together to end the violence. The STOP Program requires each state to allocate at least 25 percent of funds under the STOP Program for law enforcement. Activities funded include dedicated domestic violence or sexual assault officers and detectives, training for law enforcement on violence against women, victim-witness personnel within law enforcement offices, and special programs within probation, parole, and corrections offices.

The Transitional Housing program supports the local resources that all of you know about and that you are learning more about here today – the shelters, the counseling services, and other support services who work with you on addressing these problems.

Finally, while I don’t believe we have many representatives from tribal law enforcement agencies here today, I did mention our Grants to Tribal Governments Program on purpose, because I don’t want any of you to forget that your partnerships with these agencies are as important as your relationships with other localities, with your state and other states, and with us at the Department of Justice. Decreasing violence against women will take all of us – federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement – in partnership with public educators and community organizations. That’s why we will continue to support symposiums and programs like this one that allow us to share our best practices and toughest challenges.

The Department of Justice and this Administration are fully committed to supporting state, local and tribal law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. The Recovery Act is not a one-time investment. Only by sustained investment in our communities can we make them safer and make them fit for long-term economic development. Our communities count on you to stand up for them, and we want you to count on us to stand up for you and the work that you do. That includes consistent funding for the training and hiring of cops on the beat and other assistance to make sure that our state and local law enforcement on the "front lines" are getting the support they need. And it means opening our doors, and finding 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 ways that we are supporting and can support what you are doing. And again, thank you all for being here, for being engaged, and for putting your lives on the line every day.