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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks at the Valor Survive and Thrive Conference


Waukegan, IL
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, John for that generous introduction and thank you for your dozen years of service to the Department of Justice.  John was once the captain of the Harvard football team and now he’s the captain of an office that serves 9 million people.

On behalf of President Donald Trump—I want to thank your staff and all of the federal officers who are here with us today.

And while we are inexpressibly proud of our justice team—FBI, DEA, ATF, the Marshals Service—we also fully 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 want to thank:

  • Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles and
  • State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim

Thank you also to the Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center.

I want to commend all of the 146 officers from 51 agencies who are receiving VALOR training today.  The day I was sworn in as Attorney General President Trump ordered me to enhance officer safety and to “back the blue.”  That’s exactly what we are doing.

It is an honor to be back in the Chicago area and to meet with law officers on the front lines in the fight against violent crime.

This morning, I met with police department commanders that explained what they are putting in place to curb the violence here and I met with community members who are affected every day. Mothers who’s sons were gunned down. Students from a local high school who are being exposed to unspeakable violence every day.

So I am here to tell you this is urgent. The people in these neighborhoods are entitled to the same safety and security as the people living in the mansions and gated communities on the north shore.

They deserve the same protection as every Chicagoan. They deserve to go to sleep at night without the fear of a stray bullet hitting coming through the wall as their children sleep.

But we have children being gunned down every day and it is our duty to do everything in our power to stop it.

Accepting this status quo of death and crime because it's confined to a few neighborhoods not responsible or moral. This storied city cannot capitulate to the violence.

And that is why I am here today. Your work has never been easy.  But in recent years you have faced obstacles that have made your jobs more difficult and more dangerous than they have to be.

Colossal mistakes have been made by politicians and leaders that have had particular catastrophic consequences for the people of cities like Chicago, Baltimore, and St. Louis.

From 1991 to 2014, we saw an historic nationwide decline in violent crime.  Murder dropped by half.  Violent crime overall dropped by half.

Rape decreased by more than a third, and robbery plummeted by nearly two-thirds.

This was an incalculable benefit to America.

But nationally in the last two years of the previous administration, the trends ominously reversed.

From 2014 to 2016, the violent crime rate went up by nearly seven percent. Assaults and rape went up nearly 10 percent. Murder shot up by more than 20 percent.

Sadly, this was a nationwide phenomenon.  But Chicago is, without a doubt, the most dramatic example.

In 2014, the police here came under intense criticism. A year later, the ACLU issued a report on “Stop and Frisk in Chicago” and threatened the City of Chicago with a lawsuit—and the politicians went into a retreat. 

In the aftermath, the city’s leadership rushed into an irresponsible consent decree with the radical activists and the ACLU. 

After the consent decree became effective on January 1, 2016, policing went down; crime went up—and as a result, hundreds of Chicagoans are now dead—almost all of them African-American or Latino.

Chicago saw the biggest single-year increase in the murder rate since we’ve had reliable statistics—which is over 60 years.

765 people were killed in Chicago, the most the city had seen in 20 years. Over the previous decade before the consent decree, the average was 454. That means that 311 Chicagoans—friends, neighbors, moms, dads—were killed in 2016 who might still be alive if the murder rate had stayed at the 10-year average.

More people were murdered in Chicago in 2016 than in New York and Los Angeles combined—even though Chicago has one-fifth of the population of those two cities.

The situation was so bad that nearly a quarter of the nationwide increase in homicide that year happened in Chicago alone.

This did not need to happen. In 2015 and 2016, Chicago had the same police on patrol and the same prosecutors in court, but dramatically different results.

So what happened?

According to a study by two professors from the University of Utah—one of whom is a former federal judge—the consent decree mandated a major change in Chicago’s community-based policing—including Terry stops—that allowed this bloodshed to take place.

The professors found that the increased crime cost a staggering $1.5 billion and noted that 78 percent of its victims were African-American and 16 percent were Latino.  Ninety-four percent of the victims were minorities.

The ACLU consent decree required police officers to submit a detailed report to the ACLU, a former federal judge, and a publicly available database after every single Terry stop.

John’s predecessor as United States Attorney, Zachary Fardon, said in an open letter to the City that the ACLU agreement “[told] cops if you go talk to those kids on the corner, you’re going to have to take 40 minutes to fill out a form, and you’re going to have to give them a receipt with your badge number on it.”

And he noted that as a result, by January 2016, “the city was on fire” because “the rule of law, law enforcement, had been delegitimized.” That is a devastating analysis.

Reporting by the Chicago Sun Times confirms this, stating in January 2016, that Chicago officers say that “they fear getting in trouble for stops later deemed to be illegal and the new [required forms] take too much time to complete.” 

After the consent decree pushed by the ACLU went into effect in 2016, these stops declined by 75 percent.  Chicago police made 24 percent fewer arrests in 2016 than they made in 2015, and about half as many arrests as they made in 2011.

To any police officer or sheriff’s deputy on the beat, the dangers created were immediately obvious. 

But tragically, it was not obvious to the politicians, the media, or the activists.

As former U.S. Attorney Fardon put it, “cops stopped making stops and kids started shooting more.”

The professors who studied Chicago call it “the ACLU effect.”   Policing went down and crime went up.

There’s a clear lesson here:  if you want more shootings and more death, then listen to the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, or Antifa.  If you want public safety, then listen to the police professionals who have been studying this for 35 years.

Chicago’s officers are still on these streets every day doing honorable, respectable work on behalf of the community.  Chicago hired 1,100 more police officers in 2017.  That is a positive step.

But the disastrous consent decree is still in effect.

And while the police here are doing everything in their power to reverse these trends, their hands still remain tied. We’ve seen some important progress thanks to your efforts—its encouraging—but the murders in 2017 remained at historic highs—still 35 percent higher than 2015.

Hundreds more people gunned down for another year. And yet, there’s been recent discussion of even more restrictions. Clearly that is not the answer. We need to get back to community based policing not further limit the very tactics that have the best chance to reduce crime and violence.

This is why—sadly—Chicago has become a cautionary tale for leaders across America.

But Chicago is not alone. Good and decent people of other cities have also suffered from leadership and politics forcing their police departments to restrict proactive community policing.

One of the most tragic examples is Baltimore.

After the death of Freddie Gray, violence and riots followed. City leadership signed a consent decree with the ACLU.  The results were the same as in Chicago.

From 2014 to 2017, the average number of field interviews conducted by police in Baltimore fell by 70 percent.

Arrests fell dramatically and arrests on outstanding warrants dropped by half.

Meanwhile, homicides in Baltimore increased by 62.5 percent.  Rape more than tripled.  Car theft and aggravated assault went up by third. 

St. Louis has gone through a similar ordeal. 

In St. Louis, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014 in nearby Ferguson, there were riots and police pulled back from the community.

In 2015—the year after the riots—St. Louis became the murder capital of the United States.

In 2016, it had a murder rate more than 10 times the national average and double the murder rate of Chicago. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Smart law enforcement policies can bring down crime rates and start a virtuous cycle of safety and prosperity.

Think about the example of New York City.

In 1990, there were 2,605 murders in New York City.  Last year there were 292.  Thanks to the historic work of Bill Bratton and Rudy Giuliani, the burglaries are down by nearly two-thirds and robberies have been cut in half since 2000.

Results like these don’t happen by accident.  This was the work of smart and diligent policing.

New York targets criminals whom they refer to as Alpha Criminals—ones who commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime and recruit others to join their enterprises.

NYPD monitors crime rates block by block.

Los Angeles has also shown how to reduce crime.  Violent crime fell by more than 70 percent from the 1980s to 2015.  From 2005 to 2013, the murder rate fell by nearly half.

The proof is in.  It can no longer be denied: disrespect and lack of support for police officers has real world consequences.

Leaders must understand and affirm the important and dangerous work of our officers.  Failure to support our professionals undermines the pro-active policing that has been shown to save lives.

President Trump is a lifelong New Yorker.  He saw how a surge of violence almost lost that great city.

And he saw Rudy Giuliani and Bill Bratton save his hometown and the prosperity that has followed.

Under his strong leadership, we are respecting police again and enforcing our laws.

Based on my experience meeting with officers like you across the country, I believe that morale has already improved under President Trump.  I can feel the difference.

Last summer, I deployed more ATF agents and prosecutors to Chicago, and I prioritized prosecutions to focus on reducing violent crime.   That will help. 

We believe that law enforcement is a noble profession and one that demands respect. 

Of course, the Department of Justice 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.   We will encourage proven, constitutional, and proactive policing that departments must do to keep all Americans safe—and especially our minority communities who are by far the most victimized by crime.

 They are crying out for safety and they are right to do so.

We will not participate in anything that would give comfort to criminals or radicals who preach hostility rather than respect for police.

The work ahead of you is difficult, but it is not hopeless.  It may take some time, but Chicago can choose a better future. 

Nothing is more important to Chicago than restoring safety. 

Chicago cannot accept an image as a violent, crime-ridden city.  If it does, then it continues down the vicious cycle of crime, poverty, and low growth.  Chicago’s population has declined for three years in a row.

In 2016, it was the only one of our 10 biggest cities to have a shrinking population.

And so I would urge that the city take on a great mission to recognize the mistakes of the past and develop a plan for the future. 

If anybody thinks that it can’t be done, then look at New York City and Los Angeles.  It can be done.  But Chicago must listen to the police professionals and support them financially and morally.

And so, in our joint effort to protect the good people of this city and this country, you can be certain about this: we have your backs, and you have our thanks.

Violent Crime
Updated September 19, 2018