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Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Summit


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Your leadership, and your commitment to ensuring that our nation’s first responders have the tools and capabilities that they need, have been essential in bringing us to this moment. Because of you – and the many partners gathered here – we’ve never been closer to realizing our goal of enabling public safety officers to take full advantage of the benefits of broadband technology.

As we have seen repeatedly – most clearly on September 11th and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – in times of crisis and emergency, law enforcement officers and first responders must be able to communicate quickly, across all jurisdictions. And as national security and public safety threats have continued to grow and to evolve, the need to bring public safety communications into the 21st century has never been greater.

That’s why, over the last two years, the Department of Justice has taken an active role in helping to ensure that the communications needs of federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies are met. With outstanding leadership from Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli; from Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson, and her colleagues in the Office of Justice Programs and National Institute of Justice; and from Director Barney Melekian and his team in Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, we’ve worked in partnership with the White House and the Departments of Homeland Security and Commerce to facilitate a series of discussions concerning the public safety broadband network and the future of the D-Block. And – for as long as it takes – we’ll continue bringing together policymakers and leaders from law enforcement, the broader public safety community, and the telecommunications industry to determine a path forward.

Today, although obstacles to instant communication between first responders remain, the good news is that a solution is within view.  Thanks to extraordinary bipartisan leadership, a legal framework – which invests in public safety broadband communications – is moving forward in Congress. And the Department of Justice and our federal agency partners are now developing the tools, technologies, and governance strategies necessary to bring today’s public safety operations to the next level. For example, the FBI is currently working on the first cut of some exciting public safety applications, which you’ll hear more about today.  The COPS Office is collaborating with police departments around the country to help them prepare to utilize broadband communications capabilities. And the National Institute of Justice is investing in research and development initiatives aimed at allowing our law enforcement and public safety partners to be even more effective in the field.

This approach is showing signs of promise – but we’re not there yet. We must continue to cooperate, to advocate, and to raise awareness about the fact that we can fight crime more successfully, we can ensure the security of our homeland more reliably, and we can protect our fellow citizens and our first responders more effectively by equipping public safety officers with cutting-edge communications technologies. 

This is what they deserve. And – with your continued support – it is what they can expect.

I want to thank each of you for your ongoing commitment to this work. And, now, I’m pleased to turn things over to a key leader and partner in meeting the public safety and national security goals that we all share – my good friend, Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Updated August 18, 2015