Thank you, Bob. I’m very pleased to be here – and delighted that the Attorney General could join us today. I’ll have the honor of introducing him in a few minutes, but I want to say up front that Eric Holder’s presence here is a reflection of just how seriously this Attorney General takes the Justice Department’s responsibilities for protecting America’s citizens.
I’d also like to thank our co-sponsors in the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. We’ve had a long-running and very productive partnership with these two agencies, and I’m so grateful for their collaboration. And I appreciate the support of all the federal participants who work with us on these important issues.
And, of course, let me thank all of you – our state, local, and tribal public safety partners. We fully understand that the burden of protecting communities in times of emergency falls squarely on your shoulders. I want you to know – and I know I speak for the Attorney General here – that we are so appreciative of the work you do back home – and we’re proud to support you.
It’s fitting that we’re holding this conference on the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. We all know that technology – in particular, our communication and response systems – figured prominently in what went wrong that horrific day. But the good news is that, ten years since the worst act of terrorism committed on American soil, we’re better able to prevent and respond to acts of mass violence.
Our resilience is due, in great part, to our ability to come together at all levels of government to build and bolster a solid public safety infrastructure. And that’s what this conference is all about: working with you – our first-line responders – to ensure that you have the tools and the information you need to protect our citizens and communities.
As you’ll see during your time here, the federal government is fully engaged in strengthening our emergency response systems. And I’m pleased that John Laub and his staff in our National Institute of Justice are helping to lead these efforts.
I’m particularly proud of our work to improve the safety of our state and local law enforcement officers. In fact, I can tell you that officer safety is a top priority of this Department of Justice – and it’s very personal to this Attorney General.
Even beyond our very deep concern for your health and welfare, keeping our law enforcement personnel and first responders safe is essential to an effective response to critical incidents. NIJ and its partners are working to make sure you have the latest – and best – technology and equipment to do your jobs safely.
For example, we’re leveraging military technology to develop an improved respirator face piece that will help officers respond to chemical, biological, and radiological hazards.
We’re also working with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center to improve the protective quality of your regular duty uniforms. We know you can’t always have the opportunity to put on special gear when an emergency comes up, so we want to make certain your regular equipment has sufficient defensive capabilities.
And NIJ continues to manage a rigorous testing program designed to give you an array of protective equipment that meets the highest performance standards.
But having all this technology on the market isn’t enough. You need to know where to find it and how to use it. That’s why NIJ, working in collaboration with our federal partners and officers in the field, is developing selection and application guides for officers and procurement officials on the proper care, maintenance, and inspection of equipment. Once published, these guides will also have information on how to train users and how to identify and report defects.
I’m also proud of the progress we’ve made through the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative – or NSI, for short. Our Bureau of Justice Assistance—BJA – is leading this effort through the NSI Program Management Office, which is helping to facilitate the sharing of suspicious activity reports across all levels of government.
NSI builds on what law enforcement agencies have been doing for years – gathering information on criminal activities associated with terrorism, and then connecting the dots to prevent future attacks. We’re making tremendous progress in expanding NSI to jurisdictions across the country – and in a way that allows you to retain ownership and control of your own information systems.
This is a centerpiece of our work with the law enforcement community – and it will greatly enhance our collective ability to protect communities from terrorist acts.
Through many small and careful steps, we’ve been able to strengthen our nation’s public safety and homeland security infrastructure. We still have work to do, but our progress, I think, has been remarkable. As long as we continue to work together – consulting one another, sharing ideas and resources, and collaborating at every turn – I know we’ll be able to manage a successful response to any threat.
We’re very fortunate at the Department of Justice – and in the law enforcement community – to have a leader who values partnership, and who understands the importance of science and technology to public safety. I think it’s fair to say we’ve never had an Attorney General so committed to science. I think this will be one of Eric Holder’s great legacies – his commitment to science.
Eric Holder recognizes that technology plays a vital role in our response to critical incidents. I know I speak for John and his staff when I say this, but we’ve had nothing but the strongest support from the Attorney General in our work to improve the nation’s preparedness and response systems.
He knows from his experience as a local prosecutor that our state and local law enforcement professionals are the ones who bear the burden of protecting America’s citizens, and he works hard every day to make sure the Department of Justice is doing all it can to help you do your jobs.
From the beginning, this Attorney General – and this Administration – have been committed to listening to and forging a strong relationship with the state and local law enforcement community. As Eric Holder’s presence here attests, that commitment continues.
Please join me in welcoming the Attorney General of the United States.