Talking Points for
the Deputy Attorney General
NOBLE CEO Symposium
Saturday, July 28, 2001 @ 9:30 a.m.
Wardman Marriott Hotel, Washington, DC
I am pleased and honored to speak to you this morning. I am a new and former member of this wonderful organization. I was a member in Atlanta when I served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
I was a criminal defense lawyer for 16 years and really proud of the things I accomplished for my clients. But now my client is the United States government. A great client and one I pledge to represent zealously.
I realize that the Department of Justice has tremendous power. But that power should be exercised in a manner that is reasonable and just. I can say with confidence that we are working each day at the Department with those very words in mind. We are the Department of Justice with an emphasis on JUSTICE. We are not the Department of Federal Prosecutors. Our job is to obtain justice for our citizens, not just win cases.
I want to assure you that I understand the importance of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. In fact, in the mid-80's, in an article that I wrote on Black-On-Black crime, I mentioned several steps that must be taken to combat the problem. One of those steps was to support professional organizations such as NOBLE. I realized even then that NOBLE consists of professional law enforcement officials that seek realistic and pragmatic solutions to the crime problems. And, for the most part, we are trusted and have the confidence of our community. That's important.
In the first couple of months of my tenure as Deputy Attorney General, I have had the pleasure of meeting with your President, Ida Gillis, and other members of the leadership of your association. We had a productive exchange on issues such as political appointments, diversity, racial profiling, technology and many other concerns facing your membership. I look forward to working closely with NOBLE on all of these issues and more.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE PRIORITIES
One of the Department's primary objectives is that all Americans, regardless of their background, can trust the criminal justice system. We must have this trust if we are ever going to effectively fight crime. Crime is a clear and present danger to what our constitution calls the domestic tranquility. We realize that as law enforcement officers you place your lives in danger each and every day.
Bureau of Justice Statistics show that 1,820 law enforcement officers were murdered between 1976 and 1998. Firearms claimed the lives of 92% of these slain officers. Twelve percent of murdered officers were killed with their own firearms during the 23 year period. That means that the vast majority of officers were killed with firearms bought - often illegally - on the streets of our country.
One of the initiatives that the President introduced to reduce gun crime is Project Safe Neighborhoods. This program targets gun crime by providing existing local programs with additional tools to be successful. Under the Project, U.S. Attorneys will establish strategic partnerships between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to create an aggressive attack on gun violence, seeking the most punitive remedies for gun crime. Funding will be used to hire new federal and state prosecutors, support investigators, provide training and develop and promote community outreach efforts. The goal is for each program to be tailored to address the specific gun violence problem in that community.
This Administration is also waging an all-out effort to reduce illegal drug use in America. In doing this, we understand that it is important to examine our drug enforcement efforts to make certain that what we are doing is smart and effective and not just politically expedient. The cost of illegal drug use to this nation continues to rise and is borne by all Americans through tax dollars for increased law enforcement, incarceration, treatment programs, and medical needs. Estimates of the total cost exceed $100 billion annually, yet do not begin to capture the human costs associated with drug abuse that are measured in wasted human capital, and the pain and suffering of many American families. We are working to provide additional resources for law enforcement agencies to combat illegal drug use.
While we know that law enforcement is an effective and essential tool in combating the violent crime associated with illegal drug use in communities throughout our nation, treatment for the individual abuser is also important. Our FY 2002 budget request includes $14 million to expand residential substance abuse treatment in federal and state prison systems. We know that inmates receiving drug treatment are 73% less likely to be re-arrested, and 44 percent less likely to use drugs than those who received no treatment at all. The President has requested that the Attorney General come up with a comprehensive plan to ensure that our federal prisons are drug-free, to expand drug testing for probationers and parolees, and the to strengthen our system of drug courts across the nation. Once the plan is developed and implemented, there will be a positive effect for communities and law enforcement officers across our Nation.
One of my priorities as Deputy Attorney General is to increase diversity at the Department. This is an issue of great importance to the Department. In private practice, I had an opportunity to litigate against every division at the Department of Justice but I saw very few minority attorneys representing the United States in federal court or across the table from me. The Department has a diversity plan and we are dedicated to working hard and devoting resources toward improving it. We plan to do this, not only for the litigating divisions at Justice, but also the FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals and all other agencies at the Department because there are similar concerns at those agencies. Now that I am in a position to do something about the issue, I intend to do so.
That leads me to another area of primary importance, which is combating racial profiling. Whether perceived or reality - as it is for many of us - racial profiling is a prevalent issue of concern across the country. Studies have shown that citizens believe that police are engaging in racial profiling. Studies have also shown that many police officers do not believe that the practice exists.
That's one reason why your work in this area is so important. You are law enforcement and you know racial profiling exists. Many of us have our own stories of profiling. I know I have mine.
I commend NOBLE for its work on the forefront of this issue. NOBLE's report on racial profiling - including the recommendations to the Department - is excellent. Your training program on racial profiling has been innovative and will continue to be well received. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of your commitment to this issue.
The Department is at work on combating racial profiling. The President and Attorney General have made clear that the Department will take a leadership role in addressing this issue. In February 2001, the President directed the Attorney General to review the use of race by Federal law enforcement authorities. The Attorney General has directed that I conduct a review of the policies of practices of federal law enforcement agencies to determine the nature and extent of any racial profiling. We expect to report to the President on our findings in the fall. We realize that we need to do all we can to address this issue on a federal level. The Department also looks forward to working in a partnership with NOBLE on this issue at a federal and state and local level. Your expertise is invaluable in combating this problem.
This is a great opportunity for me to have a homecoming to the law enforcement community. One of my colleagues told me that we need not be of one mind all the time as long as we are of one purpose. I look forward to exchanging ideas and working closely with all you for the purpose of improving our system of justice. And to make certain that all Americans, regardless of their backgrounds, trust and have confidence in our criminal justice system.