Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you Jerry, for that generous introduction. We are honored to be with you today in Kansas, and we could not be happier that you have taken over as Chairman of the powerful Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations subcommittee.
The C-J-S panel funds all of the Department’s critical law enforcement and national security activities: investigations, prosecutions, the FBI, DEA, ATF, U.S. Marshalls, and the Bureau of Prisons.
Let me say, we are dependent on our partners in Congress, and there is no finer Senator to be in charge of the CJS subcommittee than Jerry Moran. He and his staff have rolled up their sleeves and dug in on the issues. He is a smart and thoughtful leader in the fight against violent crime, MS-13, or drug trafficking opioids.
So Jerry, thank you for your service, and your leadership. The law enforcement community in Kansas is blessed to have you where you are, and so is the Department of Justice.
I also want to thank:
- Attorney General Schmidt
- Darin Beck, Executive Director of KLETC,
- Dr. Girod, Chancellor of the University of Kansas,
- Dr. Daniel J. Thomas, of the Kansas Board of Regents, and
- Dr. David Cook, Vice Chancellor of the University of Kansas.
Thank you all for being here. Your presence reflects the importance of KLETC.
Let me note – it is very clear, that a critical component of the 30 year decline in crime rates is the work of our law enforcement training programs. KLETC is exactly that. From the newest officer to the Sheriffs and Chiefs, professionalism and training from these kinds of programs have made all the difference.
We have never had better trained or better led law enforcement departments than we do today.
And in particular—on behalf of President Donald Trump—I want to say to each and every one of the 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 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 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 76 this year.
That’s two a week. And that’s far too many.
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge two Kansas officers who are not with us today.
Back in June, Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Deputies Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer were transporting an alleged murderer to court when the inmate took one of their guns and shot them both to death.
The two deputies had served Wyandotte County for a combined total of 20 years.
Theresa King was a mother of three and she was about to start a job as a school resource officer. She was a student here, her picture is on the "Wall of Honor".
Patrick Rohrer left behind a wife and two young children.
The American people are grateful for the sacrifice that these deputies made—and for the sacrifices that each of you make to keep us safe.
Just before President Trump took office, we were experiencing a nationwide surge in violent 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.
Here in Kansas, the violent crime rate increased nine percent over those two years. Aggravated assault increased by nine percent. Robbery went up by a shocking 30 percent.
Last year there were more murders in Kansas than any year since 1959, when the KBI started keeping track. There were 40 percent more murders in Kansas last year than the 10-year average.
In Wichita, the violent crime rate went up 20 percent from 2014 to 2016. The murder rate went up 22 percent. Rape went up by a quarter. Aggravated assault went up by a shocking 44 percent. We will not capitulate to these trends.
President Trump is the law and order president, and has listened to the people of this country. He has heard their concerns. This issue is a priority for him.
Under his leadership, we have taken historic new steps that I believe will help make your jobs easier and safer.
For example, I have ordered 300 more federal prosecutors out into the field in the biggest prosecutor surge in decades. That includes two right here in Kansas who will focus exclusively on violent crime.
We have reformed and advanced civil asset forfeiture with asset sharing so that we defund the criminal enterprises while protecting the rights of innocent people.
We have helped police departments across America to hire hundreds more police officers through our COPS grant program.
We are also helping to ensure that our state and local partners have the training and the equipment that they need to be successful.
In fact, today I am announcing that the Department of Justice will award $100,000 to help the Wichita police purchase 67 body-worn cameras for their officers.
We are also supporting the good work of police in Kansas City, where they have an innovative and sophisticated plan to reduce crime in their community. They are able to determine what they call “micro hot spots” where crime is rising. These are areas of about 10 blocks by 10 blocks. They then reallocate officers to patrol the hot spots as a deterrent and update the hot spot designations every 30 days. This is what modern policing should look like.
Kansas City Police also house a Violent Crimes Task Force with Department of Justice officers from DEA, ATF, FBI and the Marshals service.
We strongly support good policing strategies like this. And so I am announcing today. The Department will provide $700,000 to Kansas City to help them continue these leadership practices. Sustained programs like these will make communities safer.
Let me be clear: we are determined to improve safety for all Americans. A recent analysis in Chicago finds 94 percent of crime victims are African Americans and Hispanic.
But for these efforts to succeed over the long run, we also want to make sure that the criminals that you pursue get sufficient sentences.
That is why we have restored traditional charging practices for our prosecutors. Under the previous administration, prosecutors were told to leave out facts from the charging documents in drug trafficking cases if they might trigger a mandatory minimum sentence. Sure enough, sentences went down and prosecutions went down. In fact, we’ve seen a 16 percent reduction in the federal prison population since 2013—the year the charging policy changed. The federal prison population is currently at its lowest level since 2004.
But we are trusting our prosecutors again. We are enforcing the law as written. And we are going to ensure that drug traffickers get the sentences they deserve.
And I want to be clear about this: we are going after the traffickers, but we want to provide an opportunity to those who are addicted to recover and to change their lives.
That’s why I am announcing today that the Department of Justice will also award more than $400,000 to support drug courts in Winfield, Kansas. The Court has also raised another $200,000 in matching funds. The Court currently works with 30 high-risk drug offenders, primarily methamphetamine addicts. The court hopes to increase drug testing to make the program more rigorous, support medication-assisted treatment, to hire two more staff members, and to expand their capacity.
In total, they expect to serve 160 people. That will make a big difference for the people of Cowley County.
Ron Gould, Deputy Executive Director of KLETC, is the former Chief of Police in Winfield. And KLETC instructor Jeff Elston is a former Cowley County deputy. And of course Darin is a former Wichita drug court prosecutor. They know how important this is.
I believe that the Trump administration’s policies are good for law enforcement and good for the communities that we serve.
The evidence is already starting to come in that our efforts are bearing fruit.
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. Violent crime rate in these cities is down nearly five percent and murder is down more than six percent. We want that downward trend to continue.
We also prescribe too many opioids in this country. 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, the most recent data show a possible leveling off.
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.