Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you all for being here. I particularly want to thank Congresswoman [Barbara] Lee, Mayor [Libby] Schaaf, and Chief of Police [Sean] Whent for welcoming me to Oakland today, as well as our outstanding U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, Melinda Haag, for her help in pulling together this important meeting.
I also want to thank all of the assembled law enforcement, faith, student, and community leaders for joining me to talk about the work that’s underway here in Oakland – and the important steps that we must take together to reduce crime while building community trust.
It is a privilege to join you in advancing this discussion this afternoon, and to have the opportunity to help shine a light on the remarkable work you perform each and every day.
I’d particularly like to recognize the tireless efforts of the men and women of the Oakland Police Department, who stand on the front lines of our work to improve public safety.
I know I speak for my Justice Department colleagues, and for everyone here, when I say that the bravery this work requires – and the dangers that are inherent in it – are never far from our minds.
As the brother of a retired police officer, I know in a deeply personal way how courageous these public servants are. I have seen the tremendous and often-unheralded sacrifices that they and their loved ones are routinely called upon to make.
I have also seen the destructive consequences that too often accompany any loss of trust between our brave law enforcement officers and the communities they are entrusted to serve and protect.
Recent events have cast a stark light on rifts that have emerged throughout the country. And that’s why I’ve been traveling the nation in recent months to hold roundtable discussions – like this one – aimed at bringing people of all backgrounds and perspectives together to restore trust where it has been eroded, and to build trust where it never existed.
I am especially mindful, as we gather today, of the devastating and barbaric attack that we suffered in New York City in December. The terrible losses of Officers [Wenjian] Liu and [Rafael] Ramos – members of New York’s finest – shocked the nation. They serve as tragic reminders of the dangers that all of our officers regularly face. And this incident has lent new urgency to our ongoing, national conversation.
Over the past six years, through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and other components, the Department of Justice has taken significant steps to provide our law enforcement officers with access to the tools and support they need to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible. Going forward, we will continue to make good on our deep commitment to building understanding and cooperation between our officers and the communities they serve.
Before we open today’s discussion, I’d like to provide you all with a brief update on some of the constructive steps we’re taking to do just that, to help address these urgent issues in cities and towns across America, and to advance this broad, inclusive dialogue at the national level.
We cannot squander this opportunity to have the kind of dialogue - I think - is needed to begin the kind of change we need in this nation.
In December, the Administration took a series of actions to take this commitment to a new level – by improving the way local authorities acquire equipment from the federal government; by proposing investments in body-worn cameras, expanded training, and additional resources for facilitating community engagement; by strengthening guidance on profiling by federal law enforcement agents conducting law enforcement activities; and by convening a new Task Force on 21st Century Policing – led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson – to examine ways to promote effective crime strategies while building public trust.
Ultimately, all of these efforts will advance the cause that brings us together today – promoting safer, more effective law enforcement for the people of Oakland, and for millions of others throughout the country.
The people of this great city deserve an outstanding, world-class police force that works alongside local residents to protect public safety. Oakland’s brave officers deserve the cutting-edge tools, the very latest training, and the steadfast support they need to do their jobs with maximum safety, efficacy, and fairness.
As this work unfolds, I want you to know that the Justice Department will continue to rely on your leadership, your expertise, and your unique perspectives to help ensure that we can bridge longstanding divisions between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
This is a great community that has, I think, shown itself to be a leader of so many things on the national level.
In partnership with you, and through the leadership of U.S. Attorney Haag – who will be our lasting presence on the ground here in Oakland, helping to drive these efforts forward – I believe we can all be confident in where this work will take us.
I am eager to hear from all of you on how we can best achieve these goals. I appreciate your guidance and engagement. And I look forward to everything we’ll accomplish together in the critical days ahead.