Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Josh for that kind introduction, your 24 years of service to the Department of Justice, and now your leadership as United States Attorney in Southern Indiana. And congratulations on your unanimous Senate confirmation.
Thank you also to Tom for your nine years of service to the Department of Justice—including one year at Main Justice in DC—and thank you for your leadership as United States Attorney for Northern Indiana.
I think you’ll agree with me that it’s just about the best job in the world.
Thank you to both U.S. Attorney’s Offices and to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute for making this conference possible, and for continuing this tradition year after year.
I especially want to thank the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute for making this training available for free to Indiana’s law officers.
At the Department of Justice we are inexpressibly proud of our fabulous federal officers, 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 we cannot succeed without you.
And so I am deeply grateful for the leadership of Sheriff Tim Miller, Sheriff David Reynolds, Sheriff Christopher Sailors, as well as the 29 police chiefs, six assistant chiefs, and 20 deputy police chiefs who are here. One of the greatest honors I have received as Attorney General has been the National Sheriffs Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. It is proudly on display in my office in Washington.
This is my third visit to the Hoosier state as Attorney General. The first time, I enjoyed exploring the 10 Point Coalition neighborhood. Vice-President Pence is a big supporter of theirs. And a few months ago I spoke at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne. It is good to be back.
Today I am here on behalf of President Donald Trump to say to each and every one of the 575 law officers who are here: thank you for your service.
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.
I know that sometimes in the past, you haven’t had the support that you deserve. You’ve had politicians tie your hands with ineffective policies or fail to understand the challenges you face.
But not in this administration.
Let me say this loud and clear: President Trump and I are proud to stand with you.
It’s simple. We know whose side we’re on. We’re on the side of law enforcement – not the criminals.
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.”
The President and I affirm the critical role of law enforcement in our society and we will not participate in anything that would give comfort to criminals or radicals who preach hostility rather than respect for police.
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 this safety is bought at a price.
Every time an officer in the United States dies in the line of duty, the news comes across my desk. And as a small expression of my appreciation, I send a condolence letter to their families.
I’ve already sent 74 this year.
That’s two a week. And that’s too many.
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge two officers who could not be with us for this year’s conference.
In March, we lost Deputy Jacob Pickett of the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.
He was chasing a suspect in a car when the suspect stopped, got out, shot at him three times, and then ran.
Deputy Pickett died of his wounds at the age of 34. He had worn the badge for eight years.
He left behind a wife of 10 years and two sons.
Just three months before he died, Deputy Pickett arrested a man named Alex Dale. Alex says it changed his life. He was addicted to drugs, and he planned to keep using. Going to jail was a wake-up call. “I was on a path to death,” he said. But now he’s reunited with his infant daughter. He says he owes his life to Deputy Pickett.
Two months after we lost Deputy Pickett, we lost Robert Pitts of the Terre Haute Police Department.
Officer Pitts was pursuing a lead in a homicide investigation when the suspect opened fire from the top of a flight of stairs. He died of his wounds. He had served as an officer for 22 years. And left behind a daughter and a five-year old son.
At the Department of Justice, we especially honor Officer Pitts as one of our own because he was a member of the U.S. Marshals Task Force and a SWAT Team member who worked with our federal officers on drug raids here in Indianapolis.
Both of these officers—Deputy Pickett and Officer Pitts—exemplify what it means to be a law enforcement officer. And their tragic deaths show the dangers that officers like you face every day.
The American people are grateful for the sacrifice that they made—and the sacrifices you make to keep us safe.
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, including Indiana.
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.
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.
When I became Attorney General, we were seeing a surge in crime. This was a surprise after more than two decades of declining crime rates. From 1991 to 2014, violent crime dropped by half. Murder dropped by half. So did aggravated assault. Rape decreased by more than a third, and robbery plummeted by nearly two-thirds.
But in 2015, the homicide rate increased by 12 percent nationally. And it increased again by 8 percent in 2016. Violent crime, rape, robbery, and assault increased during that time, too.
It wasn’t a coincidence or a fluke that we brought down crime rates for decades.
First we had a bipartisan, pro-law enforcement agenda in the Reagan years. We had the elimination of parole, the Speedy Trial Act, the elimination of bail on appeal, increased bail for dangerous criminals before trial, the issuing of sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences.
We increased funding for the DEA, FBI, ATF, the Marshals Service, and federal prosecutors. And most states and cities followed Reagan’s lead. Professionalism and training dramatically increased in law enforcement.
I was a United States Attorney before these changes. And I was a United States Attorney after these changes. I can tell you firsthand that they made a difference.
Support for police—legislative, financial, and moral—affects policing. And policing affects crime rates.
President Trump’s order to me was to reduce crime in America—not preside over ever-increasing crime rates—and that’s what we will do. And as I said before, we know that we will only be successful if we work with the 85 percent of law enforcement that serve at the state and local levels.
That’s why under President Trump, I have ordered 300 more federal prosecutors out into the field in the biggest prosecutor surge in decades. We have helped police departments across America to hire hundreds more officers. We have restored the traditional charging practices so that drug traffickers get the sentences the law requires. We have reformed and advanced civil asset forfeiture with asset sharing so that we defund the criminal enterprises. And perhaps most importantly, we have reinvigorated our relationships with our state and local law enforcement partners.
In a few weeks, we’ll celebrate the one-year anniversary of our new Project Safe Neighborhoods program.
Under Project Safe Neighborhoods, I have ordered our U.S. Attorneys to target and prioritize prosecutions of the most violent people in the most violent areas. And I’ve directed that they engage with a wide variety of stakeholders – our state and local law enforcement partners, as well as others like community groups and victims’ advocates – in order to identify the needs specific to their communities and develop a customized violent crime reduction plan.
Every city, every county, every neighborhood is different. That’s why we are listening to officers like you about what works, what doesn’t, and what your community needs. We are not telling you what to do—we are listening.
And the evidence is starting to come in that these efforts are bearing fruit.
Both the violent crime rate and the homicide rate are beginning to head back down.
Public data from 88 large cities suggest that violent crime went down in the first quarter of 2018 compared to 2017. Violent crime went down 6.8 percent and murder is going down in 2018 by 5.5 percent.
According to the National Prescription Audit, over the past year we reduced opioid prescriptions by over 11 percent. That's in addition to a more than 7 percent decline in 2017.
And while 2017 saw more drug overdose deaths than 2016—including here in Indiana, where preliminary CDC data show that a record high of more than 1,800 Hoosiers died from drug overdoses last year, which is an 18 percent increase over 2016 and a 37 percent increase over 2015—the most recent data show a possible leveling off.
But, we must worry, a huge danger remains: the killer drug fentanyl. If fentanyl supplies increase across the nation it will be very difficult to bring deaths down. We are pushing China to crack down on its production and Mexico must do more.
If Mexico begins to allow fentanyl labs like they do meth labs, we could see large increases in Mexican fentanyl production. We are sending out more fentanyl prosecutors and I urge you all to give a great attention to fentanyl cases—even small ones. We are asking for increased fentanyl sentences. Let’s all resolve that fentanyl dealers will face vigorous enforcement by law enforcement.
This is good news. But we’re not finished—and we’re not going to slow down.
With your help, we’re going to keep following the President’s order to reduce crime.
And we’re going to continue to back the blue.
So you can be certain about this: we have your backs, and you have our thanks.