Justice News

Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West Speaks at the COPS Community Policing Conference
Bethesda, MD
United States
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thank you Barney and thank you everyone for taking part in this event. I want to begin by bringing to you greetings from Attorney General Eric Holder. The Attorney General – along with the Department of Justice as a whole – applauds you and your efforts to not only promote, but actively advance, the practice of policing.

I appreciate the various agencies and backgrounds here today – from counterparts within the federal government, to chiefs and sheriffs and their rank and file, plus practitioners, analysts and researchers from numerous institutions and organizations. It’s that collaborative effort that will drive what Barney mentioned earlier – an evolution of policing.

And I am extremely honored to be presenting the L. Anthony Sutin Civic Imagination Award today. To honor an individual’s accomplishments by recognizing the most impactful endeavors and community policing success is a noble gesture. I am humbled to be a part of such a thoughtful ceremony.

Let me also acknowledge the men and women who work with sincerity and diligence to coordinate the programs designed to make your efforts easier. Thank you to the staff at COPS for your efforts in coordinating this event. And thank you to officials from our component agencies also in attendance.

Now, I know that you all know that combating crime in America -- be it gang violence on the street or financial fraud in corporate boardrooms -- is a top priority for this Department of Justice and this Administration. Attorney General Holder often says that fighting violence in our cities and building a fair and effective justice system – a system that keeps citizens safe and maintains its legitimacy in the eyes of everyone it serves – has never been more difficult, nor more urgent, than right now.

So we have been broad and aggressive in our efforts – everything from recapturing billions of taxpayers’ dollars lost to fraud, waste, and abuse through successful civil litigation to establishing sexual assault response teams within tribal nations to better respond to intolerable levels of violence against women to helping law enforcement agencies increase their community policing capacity through the COPS Hiring Program, which this year targets hiring veterans coming home from their tour of duty. Through the Attorney General’s comprehensive Anti-Violence Strategy, led by our Nation’s U.S. Attorneys, we’ve focused on reducing and preventing crime by implementing a “three-legged stool” strategy of enforcement, prevention, and reentry.

And we’ve made great strides in no small measure because of the key partnerships we’ve been able to forge with you: dedicated law enforcement professionals, public servants at the local, state and federal levels.

But while we have accomplished much together, we still have much work to do.

One of the major challenges we still face as a Nation involves the very future of our Nation: Our young people and the violence they suffer, perpetrate or witness every day. Homicide is the second leading cause of death among young people -- the first if you're an African-American or Latino youth. And before this day is out, we’ll lose another 14 of our kids to violence.

A majority of children – over 60 percent, regardless of race – are exposed to some form of violence, crime, or abuse. That ranges from brief encounters as witnesses, to serious violent episodes, to being direct victims themselves. And too often that violence has a deep, destructive and debilitating impact on the ability of our kids to learn, to form relationships of trust, to excel and succeed.

Facing this challenge, we’ve learned that by emphasizing multidisciplinary partnerships, evidence-based and data-driven strategies, and balanced, holistic approaches, we can empower communities to curb violence and promote the health, safety and development of our young people.

I know many of you are working directly with us at the Justice Department on a number of initiatives, including the Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative and the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. Just last week, I had the opportunity to visit one of our National Forum cities, Boston, where I witnessed firsthand the positive impact of interagency collaborations on both local and federal levels. I met with some pretty impressive young people who are engaging their peers by educating them about avoiding teen dating violence and promoting healthy relationships.

What’s working in Boston and in other cities around the country confronting the difficult issue of violence prevention is the recognition that it takes all of us, from various disciplines – law enforcement, public health, education, business and the faith community – it takes all of us to break out of our everyday silos and build partnerships that will help us leverage limited resources and achieve problem-solving synergies we could never realize while working separately.

And it’s in the spirit of partnerships and problem-solving that I am honored to announce the recipients of the L. Anthony Sutin Civic Imagination Award.

This award is named in memory of Tony Sutin, who served as founder and Deputy Director of COPS from its creation in 1994 until 1996, and subsequently held various other positions at the Department of Justice and in academics.

The award recognizes those law enforcement professionals who are going above and beyond to demonstrate that taking bad guys off the street, while essential, is not sufficient in and of itself. The best law enforcement -- the most effective crime prevention -- comes when officers work within a community; with its neighbors, its businesses and schools; when officers build better relationships with stakeholders and when they recognize and tackle issues before they become bigger problems.

And the award also recognizes community members who exhibit the courage to step up and partner with law enforcement officials, and who assume responsibility for the well-being of their communities.

This year we recognize one officer and one community member: Retired Chief of Police from High Point, North Carolina, James Fealy and President of the High Point Community Against Violence, Gretta Bush. This team of two is primarily responsible for developing one of the most recognized, most notable policing initiatives in recent history.

 

In 2003, then-Chief of Police Fealy met with David Kennedy, a professor with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, to discuss his theory for shutting down drug markets. Soon after that discussion, Chief Fealy took a chance and formed a collaboration to implement the strategy.

Together with Gretta Bush, they implemented what would become known as the High Point Drug Market Intervention Strategy, a community-police partnership focused on deterrent strategy to address violent crime and drug dealing.

The strategy effectively collapsed overt drug markets and dramatically reduced violent crime associated with those markets. The Drug Market Intervention strategy has also been credited with building police-community trust, promoting racial reconciliation, and facilitating community transformation.

High Point has experienced a 34 percent reduction in violent crime since 2003. Within certain neighborhoods, violent crime fell by as much as 57 percent. These numbers have been sustained for over 7 years now. Recently, High Point reported just three homicides in a year for a population of roughly 104,000 citizens. Chief Fealy retired earlier this year, after the partnership he formed closed five drug markets in High Point.

The critical element of this strategy was the collaboration between Chief Fealy and the community. Chief Fealy and Gretta Bush demonstrated exceptional community policing and leadership by not only bringing community members together to address these problems, but also by allowing residents to have a role in implementing a solution.

The Drug Market Intervention model required courage and trust by both the police department and the community, and consequently, it solidified the police-community partnership in High Point. This core community policing philosophy has been applied to other public safety programs and has since been replicated by numerous jurisdictions around the country.

Please join me in welcoming and congratulating the winners of the 2012 L. Anthony Sutin Civic Imagination Award, retired-Chief James Fealy and President of the High Point Community Against Violence, Gretta Bush.

Congratulations to each of you and thank you again Barney for inviting me to take part in this presentation. And thanks to you all for your service to your communities and to our Nation. It’s been a privilege to be with you today.