Justice News

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks at the National Association of Police Organizations – 25th Annual Top Cops Awards
Washington, DC
United States
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Monday, May 14, 2018

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Mick, for that kind introduction, and thank you for your nearly 30 years of service to the people of Florida.  Your state has suffered a lot recently, but I know that dedicated officers like you are hard at work protecting Floridians and giving them peace of mind.

I also want to thank NAPO for your 40 years of service to our nation.  NAPO represents more than 1,000 police units and associations, nearly a quarter million sworn law enforcement officers, and more than 100,000 citizens who share a common dedication to fair and effective law enforcement.

It’s an honor to welcome all of you to Washington for National Police Week.  I am proud to be part of this celebration tonight as you recognize this year’s TOP COPS award winners.

I believe one of my highest duties is to call attention to your successes, and to encourage our fellow citizens to support you in your difficult and dangerous work.

But what has made times difficult recently for law enforcement is that—by the end of the previous administration—many of you came to believe that some of the political leadership of this country had abandoned you.  Some radicals and politicians began to unfairly malign and blame police as a whole for the crimes and unacceptable deeds of a few. Amazing— their message seemed to be that the police were the problem, not the criminals. They wanted the ACLU to determine police policies, and that was enforced by a federal court order. They said police were violent while homicides in America increased by a total of 20% in 2015 and 2016, the largest jump since 1968. Law Professor Paul Cassell and economics Professor Richard Fowles established that in Chicago, homicide jumped 58% after the ACLU settlement ended proven and constitutional policing.

We have seen targeted assassinations of police by people who believe that most officers seek to brutalize their fellow citizens.  Last July, a 12-year veteran of the New York Police Department and mother of three was gunned down in cold blood by an assassin while sitting in her police van.

Let me say this loud and clear: as long as I am the Attorney General of the United States, the Department of Justice will have the back of all honest and honorable law enforcement officers.

This is the Trump era.  We support law enforcement.

Of course, we will continue to hold accountable any officer who violates the law and undermines the good work of our police.  But we will not malign entire police departments.  We will not try to micromanage their daily work all the way from Washington, D.C.   We will not enter into agreements or court decrees that outsource policymaking to political activists.

We will not agree to decrees that curtail proactive law enforcement practices that save lives, especially the lives of minorities and those living in poorer neighborhoods.  We will encourage the proven, Constitutional, and proactive policing that your departments must do to keep America safe.

This National Police Week, I want every law enforcement officer in America to know that our nation honors your service.  We are grateful for all you do to protect us.

And we remember the sacrifices of your brothers and sisters in blue who have fallen in the line of duty.

Every time an officer in the United States dies in the line of duty, it comes across my desk.  And as a small expression of my appreciation, I send a condolence letter to their families.

Each has their own story.  They are inspiring stories of compassion, bravery, tragedy, and sacrifice.

That includes Officer Charleston Hartfield of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Charlie – or “Coach Chucky,” as he was known to the kids he coached in football – was off-duty at a country music concert with his wife when he heard gunfire. 

What happened next was the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

Officer Hartfield shielded and protected other concertgoers as they fled to safety.  But he did not escape.  Officer Hartfield lost his life that night.

Charlie Hartfield exemplified what it means to serve in law enforcement.  Even when off-duty, his instinct was to run towards danger so that others could run away from it.

And we see that same spirit of selflessness in each of tonight’s award winners.

In fact, some of Officer Hartfield’s brothers and sisters in blue are with us here this evening from the Las Vegas Metro PD.  And, whether they were on duty or off duty—without thinking of their own safety—they sprang into action that night to save lives.  They are true American heroes.

They include Sergeant Greg Everett, who helped set up a triage area to treat the wounded. 

They include Sergeant Joshua Bitsko and SWAT Officer Levi Hancock who breached the room where the shooter was stationed. 

Detective Richard Golgart got a phone call that night that his own daughter had been shot.  But he kept going and he finished what he was doing: transporting injured men and women to the hospital.

That awful night was Officer Brady Cook’s second day on the job.  He was shot multiple times while attempting to draw fire away from the crowd. 

Sheriff Lombardo—who is also here tonight—tells us that just a few days later, Brady asked to come back to work.

I also want to mention Officer Casey Clarkson.  While he was shepherding people toward the exits and providing cover for them, he was shot in the neck.

But he decided to stay there and keep working.  I think he put it best when he said, “If I’m going to die, [then] I’m going to help somebody [first].”

All of these officers acted selflessly in the face of overwhelming danger.  Countless people are alive today because of such courage. This courage was seen in Las Vegas and is constantly seen around the country. 

Please join me in a round of applause for these outstanding officers.

Our nation will not forget what they did.

I’m not sure if you all saw this, but there was an important survey recently that showed that more and more of our young people want to go into law enforcement.  According to the survey, 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.  Odds are that these kids know somebody in law enforcement—maybe a neighbor, or a friend’s parent.  They see you and they are inspired by you. 

And so are we.  It takes courage to wear a badge for even one day.  It takes even more courage to respond to a robbery call, to engage a dangerous suspect, or to confront a terrorist.

But for police—that’s just part of the job.

As Attorney General, I spend a lot of time with our officers.  But I don’t always get to meet your families.  And so I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the family members who are here tonight.  It is tough to work in law enforcement, and I know it can be tough being in a law enforcement family.  Thank you for sharing these incredible people with us.

I want all of you to know that you have a President in the White House who supports you and believes strongly in your work.  President Trump cares deeply about these issues.  He has made clear, both through his executive orders and in conversations with me, that supporting law enforcement and turning back the recent surge in violent crime in our country is one of his top priorities.

The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, he sent me an executive order to “back the men and women in blue”.

At the Department of Justice, we are well aware that we can’t achieve our goals without all of you — the 85 percent of law enforcement personnel in this country that are state, local, and tribal.   It’s simple numbers.

And in law enforcement, we’re all in this together on the same mission.  You are the ones on the front lines in this fight — and our goal is to help give you the tools and support you need to do your jobs. 

That’s why our signature law enforcement program, Project Safe Neighborhoods, requires our U.S. Attorneys to establish a crime plan from the bottom up— consulting with state and local enforcement officers first.

We will not take you for granted. We are partners in this effort.

The work that you do – that you have dedicated your lives to – is essential. It is noble and honorable.  I believe it.  The Department of Justice believes it.  And President Trump believes it.

You can be certain about this: we have your back and you have our thanks.

Updated May 14, 2018