Significant Speeches

Remarks of the Honorable David J. Hickton
United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania
At The 2012 Law Enforcement and Public Safety Awareness Conference

Regional Learning Alliance Center
Cranberry Township, PA
September 27, 2012

Good morning and welcome.

It is a privilege to be here with you today. I want to begin by acknowledging the important work all of you in this room are doing. Thank you for your service to our communities and for your efforts to keep our neighborhoods safe.

Each of the agencies represented here today, ATF, FBI, as well as our colleagues in the U.S. Marshals Service, DEA, and our state and local counterparts, play an essential role in addressing violent crime. We are partners in addressing three priorities that we share:

  • protecting citizens from crime and violence,
  • ensuring the security of our homeland, and
  • safeguarding the most vulnerable among us.

Despite the many obstacles before us – and the budget challenges that every department and agency currently faces – the law enforcement community has proven its capacity for positive results, even in the face of urgent problems and unprecedented threats.

In 2011, gun-related deaths surpassed deaths by any other cause among law enforcement personnel for the first time in nearly 15 years. And while we all can be encouraged that the national crime rate has been trending downward, the harsh reality is that incidents of violence against law enforcement officers are approaching the highest levels we’ve seen in nearly two decades.

Last year, 177 federal, state and local officers lost their lives in the line of duty - a 16% increase over 2010. So far this year, 89 officers have experienced their end of watch. According to the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund, a total of 1,799 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 53 hours or 164 per year. There were 163 law enforcement officers killed in 2011.

Last year, 177 federal, state and local officers lost their lives in the line of duty - a 16% increase over 2010. So far this year, 89 officers have experienced their end of watch. According to the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund, a total of 1,799 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 53 hours or 164 per year. There were 163 law enforcement officers killed in 2011.

Average? Fellow members of law enforcement, let me assure you... there is nothing average, typical or usual when we are talking about the death or injury of any sworn officer.

As you know better than anyone, these numbers represent a devastating and unacceptable trend – and a cause that demands our best and most innovative efforts.

In recent years, the Department of Justice has made an historic commitment to protecting the safety and wellness of law enforcement officers across the country. At the federal level – and in every U.S. Attorney’s office – we are making good on this promise by improving coordination and cooperation with our state, local and international partners. We are forging new relationships and strengthening old alliances.

The Department of Justice is implementing a host of initiatives designed to enhance our understanding of crime trends, so we can better respond. We are investing in cutting-edge protective gear and state-of-the-art equipment, so you have the tools you need to perform your duties as safely and effectively as possible. And we are developing innovative strategies and training programs that will enable us to meet increased violence with renewed vigilance.

One of these new strategies is a law enforcement "surge" strategy, employed over the past four months in Philadelphia to combat high rates of murder and other violent crime. More than 50 federal law enforcement officials – including agents, investigators, and intelligence analysts from the FBI, ATF, DEA, the United States Marshals Service, and representatives of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s Criminal Division – teamed with Philadelphia Police to build capacity, enhance training, coordinate community outreach efforts, bolster intelligence analysis capabilities, and plan and execute sophisticated criminal investigations and prosecutions. These efforts made the most of taxpayer resources – and strengthened highpriority enforcement activities in neighborhoods that are plagued by crime and violence. Sheree Mixell is here from ATF and I would like to recognize her and this most successful effort.

On a more local level, Allegheny County Homicide Lt. Andy Sherman has created a working group of law enforcement supervisors from city, county, state and federal agencies that meets regularly to target repeat violent offenders. They identify and investigate violent offenders and provide federal agencies with as much evidence and intelligence information possible to allow the case to proceed on the federal level, where the law provides for pretrial detention and lengthy prison sentences.

We have already experienced success through this type of information sharing, as illustrated by the take-down of the Gary Moorfield cocaine and heroin trafficking organization and the FBI investigation and subsequent arrests of dozens of violent offenders in the Braddock area. We are employing this technique in Wilkinsburg, Homestead, Duquense, McKeesport and beyond.

In Allegheny County, the number of homicides this year already exceeds all of those from 2011. The number of non-fatal shootings is even higher. The danger is great, and so is the need to equip you with the tools and provide you with the training opportunities you need to survive.

Through this conference, we will do just that.

Today, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman will offer a new perspective on policing by discussing the psychological effects as well as physical effects a person may experience before, during, and after combat. Tomorrow, Lt. (retired) Richard Hobson, of the Metropolitan Police Department, will teach you the characteristics of an armed person. It is our hope that these courses will help you to better identify and respond to dangerous suspects prior to engagement.

I am proud to have the opportunity to work with dedicated and hard-working professionals like all of you. In spite of the challenges you face, you continue to make our communities safer.

Thank you for all that you do.

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