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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks at the Attorney General’s Awards for Distinguished Service in Policing


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for that kind introduction and thank you for outstanding leadership here at the Department of Justice.

Thank you to Phil Keith for your 35 years of law enforcement, for your leadership as the Chief of the Knoxville Police for 17 years and now your leadership of our COPS office.

Thank you once again to Rhea Walker for lending your beautiful voice to a Department of Justice ceremony.

I also want to thank our partner organizations who helped us make these awards possible:

  • FOP and IACP
  • The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives
  • The National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives
  • The Major City Police Chiefs Association
  • The Major County Sheriffs of America
  • The National Association of Police Organizations
  • The Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, and
  • The Hispanic-American Police Command Officers Association.

Thank you for your service—day in and day out—to the law enforcement officers of this country.

But above all, on behalf of President Donald Trump and a grateful nation, thank you to the stars of the show: our 25 award winners.

Each one of you have been recognized by your peers—by your brothers and sisters in blue.  And today the Department of Justice holds you up as examples for the hundreds of thousands of law officers all across this country. 

We received hundreds of worthy nominations.  And there are thousands more unsung heroes out there.

But you—our award winners—are quite simply our nation’s finest.  You are the best of the best.

I have been in and around law enforcement for nearly 40 years.  When I served in the United States Senate I served on the Armed Services Committee and I traveled all around the world.  I can tell you with confidence that no nation has a finer group of law officers than the United States of America.

President Trump and I are proud to stand with you.  We know whose side we’re on. 

We’re on the side of law enforcement – not the criminals.  We affirm the role that each of you play in our society.  You are the thin blue line that stands between law-abiding people and criminals – between safety and lawlessness.  You protect our families, our communities, and secure our country from drugs and violence.  The people of this country appreciate what you do.

This administration listens to you. We understand the risks you take and the tools you need to be effective.

The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, the President sent me an executive order to enhance officer safety and to “back the men and women in blue.”  We are determined to carry out that order every single day.

In the Trump administration, we recognize that the most important thing that any government does is keep its citizens safe.  The first civil right is the right to be safe.

And we know that that safety is bought with a price.

A good example of that is a group of officers we are honoring today: Officers Jeremiah Beason, Patrick Burke, Monty Fetherston, and Steve Morris of the Las Vegas Police Department.  They responded to the deadliest mass shooting in American history. 

When the shooting began, Officers Beason and Fetherston saw smoke coming from a window at the Mandalay Bay hotel.  They ran to the hotel and then to the 32nd floor.  Meanwhile, Officers Burke and Morris brought a women who had been shot to a paramedic and then went to help secure the 32nd floor.

That is amazing police work.  Thank you for your service.

At the Department of Justice we are inexpressibly proud of our fabulous federal officers—especially the FBI, DEA, ATF, and the Marshals Service.  But we also understand and appreciate the fact that 85 percent of the law enforcement officers in this country serve at the state and local levels.

It is simple arithmetic that most of the law enforcement done in this country is done at the state and local level. 

We cannot succeed in our goals as a Department without these fabulous partners.

We have clear goals at the Department.  From day one I plainly stated our goals are to reduce crime, reduce homicides, reduce prescriptions, and to reduce overdose deaths.

Each one of you has helped us fulfill these goals.

For example, think about what Detective Michael Rastetter has done in Canton, Ohio.

Every time somebody overdoses in Canton, they get a visit from Detective Rastetter.  He doesn’t just reverse overdoses and save lives—he goes the extra mile.  He checks in on them; he connects them with treatment if necessary, and he even tries to find them employment.

In one year, Mike engaged with 70 overdose survivors and 33 of their family members.  He has helped get 97 people into some form of treatment.

Overdoses in Canton are going down.  And I don’t think that is a coincidence.

By the end of 2017, non-fatal overdoses in Canton had decreased by 19 percent compared to 2016.  Overdose deaths in Canton were reduced by over 55 percent compared to 2016—even while the state of Ohio was experiencing increases in drug overdose deaths.

This shows—yet again—that community policing really works.

And so Detective—you’re a Hall of Famer to us.

For another example, think about what Detective Andrew Beuschel has done outside of Philadelphia.

On the day after Christmas, he responded to the tragic overdose of a 15-year old girl.  Two days later, she was pronounced dead at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  The medical examiner confirmed that it was an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl that had taken her life.

Detective Beuschel traced the heroin that killed her to the suspected dealer. 

After getting a warrant, Detective Beuschel discovered that—among other things—he had Googled “how to get people addicted to heroin” and “how to cut heroin with fentanyl.”

The suspect has now been charged with a first-degree drug-induced death.

On a separate occasion, Detective Beuschel also arrested a heroin dealer with 100 bags of heroin following a routine traffic stop.

This is great work that is helping us achieve our goal of reducing overdose deaths.  Great work.

Pennsylvania State Trooper Joel Follmer is helping us achieve our goal of reducing violent crime.

After a horrific rape took place in a town outside of Harrisburg, Trooper Follmer got a warrant for Google searches of the woman’s address on the date of the rape.  Sure enough, someone nearby who matched the description—a man who worked with her husband—had searched for her address just hours beforehand.  DNA evidence led to a match not just in this case but in at least two other rape cases as well. 

Trooper Follmer is helping to achieve justice not just for one woman—but for many.  Let’s hear it for Trooper Follmer.

I could go on and on.  Each one of our award winners has a story that the law enforcement community is proud of.

You might not know it if you listen to the media—but the American people are grateful to each one of you.

Some of you may know the story of an eight year old girl from Louisiana named Rosalyn Baldwin.

Rosalyn is on a mission to hug a police officer in every state.  She has already made it to 35 states.

Rosalyn was moved to start this mission after hearing about the 2016 shootings in Dallas—when police officers were hunted down and murdered by a political radical.  She was six years old.  When she heard the news, she said, “Mama, they’re killing our heroes.”

People have asked her why she decided to go on this mission.  She says, “I didn’t decide.  God did.”

On some of her trips, she meets with officers wounded in the line of duty and prays with them.

Rosalyn is not alone.  So many other young people look up to you.

There was an important survey earlier this year that showed that more and more of our young people want to go into law enforcement. 

It used to be the number 10 dream job for kids under 12 to become a police officer.  Now it’s number three overall—and for boys it’s number one.  More and more of our young people want to wear the badge.

I feel good about that.  That tells me that we’re doing something right.

Law enforcement is crime prevention.  When we enforce our laws effectively, we prevent crimes from being committed.

And over the past two years, I believe that’s exactly what we have done.

In 2017, the Department of Justice brought cases against the greatest number of violent criminals in a quarter of a century.  We charged the most federal firearm prosecutions in a decade. 

Preliminary data show that both the violent crime rate and the homicide rate are beginning to head back down. 

Public data from 61 large cities suggest that violent crime overall was down in those cities in the first six months of 2018 compared to 2017. 

The overall violent crime rate in these cities is down nearly five percent and murder is down more than six percent.

That’s the kind of results you get when you support law enforcement.

I meet outstanding law officers every day, but I don’t often get to see your families.  And so I want to take a moment right now to thank all of the families who are here.  Thank you for sharing these remarkable people with us; I know they’ve probably been working some late nights.  You’re making a sacrifice for this country, too. 

I want you to know that this Department and this country recognizes you and appreciates you, too.

And so, to all of you: award winners, family members, and staff, thank you for the exemplary service that we are celebrating today.  God bless you.

Updated September 21, 2018