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Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the Investiture Ceremony for U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Kenneth A. Polite Jr


United States

Thank you, Chief Judge [Brian] Jackson, for those kind words; for your leadership of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana; and for your friendship over the many years I’ve had the good fortune of knowing you.  It’s a pleasure to be back in New Orleans today – and a privilege to join you, Chief Justice [Bernette] Johnson, Senator [Mary] Landrieu, Mayor [Mitch] Landrieu, Dr. [Norman] Francis, Principal [Peggy] St. John – and so many distinguished jurists, good friends, and honored guests – as we celebrate the latest step in Kenneth Polite’s remarkable career, and mark his official swearing-in as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

I’d like to extend a special welcome to Kenneth’s wife, Florencia; their daughters, Gabrielle and Lena; Kenneth’s mother, Rosalind; his father, Kenneth Sr., who has dedicated more than 37 years of service to this great city as a member of the New Orleans Police Department; and his brother, Damion, who recently began his law enforcement career in Houston.  Thank you all for taking the time to be here today.

I’d also like to recognize each of the high school students, student body presidents, Color Guard members, and talented choir members who are sharing their time and talents with us this morning.  I know Kenneth made it a priority to include you in his investiture, and to hold this event here at Cohen College Prep, because he is focused on the impact that his work will have on every member of this community – and particularly the young people who will learn and grow in this district; who will be most affected by its challenges and opportunities; and who will, like, Kenneth, someday step forward to lead it.  I want to thank you for making this ceremony so special.

Like many of these students, Kenneth was born and raised right here in New Orleans.  He grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward, rose to become valedictorian of his high school, and went on to attend Harvard University and the Georgetown Law Center.  Along the way, he saw firsthand – from an early age – the struggles against crime, drugs, and violence that face too many New Orleans residents, and far too many children, on a daily basis.  And he came to understand the tremendous power of education and community outreach when it comes to transforming neighborhoods, improving criminal justice outcomes – and even saving lives.

Kenneth knows that – as President Obama and I have often said – we can’t simply prosecute and incarcerate our way to becoming a safer country.  Instead, we must invest in community engagement.  We must take innovative steps to target law enforcement resources to the areas where they’re most needed.  And we must make a firm commitment to prioritize proven educational and job training programs, reentry initiatives, and diversion strategies that can keep tomorrow’s leaders safe from harm, on the right path, and out of the criminal justice system.

This is something that my Justice Department colleagues and I are working hard to do – at the federal level – through the “Smart on Crime” initiative I announced in San Francisco this August.  And it’s an approach that Kenneth Polite has championed throughout his career.

I’m confident that his sense of perspective and his deep involvement with the community he serves – coupled with the experience he’s gained in private practice, as a judicial law clerk, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York – have uniquely qualified Kenneth to assume leadership of this important office at such a critical time.  I’m certain that – as the President said this summer – Kenneth “will be relentless in his pursuit of justice and serve the people of Louisiana with distinction.”  And I know that his skills, his energy, and his considerable talents will enable him to make a profound difference here in the Eastern District – where we’ll be relying on him and his colleagues as never before.

We come together this morning in a moment of promise and significant opportunity, with consent decrees regarding the New Orleans Police Department and the Orleans Parish Prison in full effect.  As you may know, an essential part of the NOPD consent decree requires Kenneth to bring together criminal justice leaders and stakeholders throughout the area.  And it provides a formal mechanism for him to hear directly from the city about its greatest needs and most significant challenges.

In just the few short months since he took office, I know Kenneth has hit the ground running – stepping forward to address some of the most pressing issues, and the most daunting obstacles, that this community faces.  And in the months and years to come – as he continues to forge ahead, to reinforce the partnerships necessary to address crime and corruption, to fight against violence, and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his federal, state, and local counterparts – I want him to know, just as I want you all to know, that this city can continue to expect the full support of my colleagues at every level of the U.S. Department of Justice.

From our Civil Rights Division, to the COPS Office, and the Office on Violence Against Women; from the Office of Justice Programs, to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the FBI and ATF – the Justice Department has been proud to partner with leaders here in New Orleans to reduce crime and address emerging threats.  We are committed to working with U.S. Attorney Polite to build upon these efforts.  And we will never waver in our determination to protect the citizens of the Eastern District of Louisiana; to seek justice for those who become victims of crime and violence; and to empower the next generation of leaders who will soon lead this community and carry on this essential work – a generation raised here in Louisiana, educated at great schools like this one, and dedicated – just as Kenneth is dedicated – to securing the better, brighter, and more just future that all of our citizens deserve.

As we administer the Oath of Office to him today, there can be no question that Kenneth Polite is well-suited – and superbly qualified – to lead the hardworking men and women who serve this important United States Attorney’s Office, and to extend the tradition of excellence and integrity that has always defined our very best United States Attorneys.  I realize, as he does, that implementing the solutions we need will be anything but easy.  But I am confident that – with the encouragement of his family, friends, and colleagues; with the energy, the passion, and the dedication he has displayed throughout his career; and with the character that has always been the hallmark of his work – Kenneth will be able to overcome the obstacles, and help this office meet the challenges, that lie ahead.

As you do so, I want to assure you that you’ll always have the strongest support of the Justice Department’s senior leadership – starting with me.  I’m delighted to share this moment with you.  I’m honored to count you as a colleague and partner.  And I congratulate you, once again, on this prestigious and well-deserved honor.

Thank you.

Updated August 18, 2015