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Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Delivers Remarks to State and Local Law Enforcement on Efforts to Combat Violent Crime and the Opioid Crisis


Des Moines, IA
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Marc for that kind introduction and thank you for your leadership as United States Attorney.  You are carrying the torch on a lot of the work that we did back when I was U.S. Attorney for this district.

Thank you also to:

  • Commissioner Roxann Ryan and Director of Investigative Operations Kevin Winker of the Iowa Department of Public Safety,
  • Acting Director Joyce Flinn of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management,
  • Marshall County Sheriff Steve Hoffman,
  • Marion County Sheriff Jason Sandholdt,
  • Chief Dana Wingert and Major Stephen Waymire of the Des Moines Police Department,
  • Chief Chad McCluskey of Windsor Heights,
  • Chief Al Pizzano of Pleasant Hill,
  • Chief John Quinn of Waukee,
  • Chief Greg Stallman of Altoona,
  • Chief Michael Tupper of Marshalltown,
  • Polk County Attorney John Sarcone,
  • David Lorenzen, Motor Vehicle Enforcement Chief with the Iowa Department of Transportation, and
  • Polk County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Gregory Schmunk.

Thank you all for being here.

It is good to be back. 

This is the office where I served for nearly five and a half years.  It was the honor of a lifetime, and it was an experience that only deepened my appreciation for law enforcement.

I worked every day with officers from the federal, state, and local levels—including people in this room—to find evidence of crime and to keep the people of Iowa safe.

I am proud of what we accomplished together.

I am especially proud because I have seen the results firsthand.  This is the community where I grew up, where I played football, where I went to law school and business school, where I ran a small business, and where I’m still raising my family.  I know that Iowans are safer because of what we achieved.

Some of you may have heard that there have been some changes at the Department in recent weeks.  One thing that hasn’t changed is our unwavering support for state and local law enforcement.

The Trump administration will always be a law-and-order administration.  We recognize that public safety is government’s first and most important task—and we honor the role that law enforcement officers play in protecting our society.

Our federal officers are known all over the world for their professionalism and their competence.

But we are well aware that about 85 percent of the law enforcement officers in this country serve at the state and local levels.  It is simple arithmetic that we cannot succeed without you.

That is why this Department of Justice under President Donald Trump has given you more resources and more tools to help you succeed.

One of President Trump’s very first Executive Orders to Attorney General Sessions was to “back the blue” and enhance the safety of law enforcement officers in this country.

We have embraced that goal and we’ve been faithful to it every day.

Over these last two years we have helped hire hundreds of police officers across America, including 10 here in Iowa.

We have reinvigorated the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, which directs our U.S. Attorneys to work with you to develop a customized crime reduction plan—and to target the most violent criminals in the most violent areas.

I ran this program as United States Attorney and I know that it works.  We are more successful at the federal level when we listen to our partners at the state and local levels.

Our strong law enforcement partnerships are paying off.

In fiscal year 2017, the Department of Justice prosecuted more violent criminals than in any year on record to that point.

And then, in fiscal year 2018—we broke that record by a margin of 15 percent.

In fiscal year 2018, we charged the highest number of federal firearm defendants in Department history.  We broke that record by a margin of 17 percent.  We charged nearly 20 percent more firearm defendants than we did in 2017 and 30 percent more than we charged in 2016.

Over the past fiscal year we also broke records for fentanyl prosecutions and for illegal entry by illegal aliens.

At the same time, we increased the number of white collar defendants and the number of drug defendants overall.  And we increased the number of deported illegal aliens prosecuted for re-entering our country by 38 percent.

These are remarkable achievements.  There can be no doubt that they have had an impact on this nation.  And we’ve achieved them together with you, our partners.

The evidence is already coming in that we’ve reduced violent crime and drug overdose deaths.

The FBI’s violent crime numbers for 2017 show that violent crime and murder both went down in 2017 after increasing for two years in a row.  And for 2018, one estimate projects that the murder rate in our 29 biggest cities will decline by 7.6 percent.

The DEA’s National Prescription Audit shows that in the first eight months of 2018, opioid prescriptions went down by nearly 12 percent—and last year they went down by seven percent.

While 2017 saw more overdose deaths than 2016, overdose deaths declined by two percent from September 2017 to March 2018, the most recent month for which we have data.

This is what we can achieve when we work together.

Our work is not finished.  We are going to continue to support our state and local partners—and I believe that our partnerships are going to continue to deliver results.

I want to conclude with something a mentor of mine used to say every time he spoke to law enforcement, and I believe it too: we have your back, and you have our thanks.

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Updated November 16, 2018