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Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at Inaugural Attorney General’s Awards for Distinguished Service in Community Policing


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, Sally [Yates], for that kind introduction and for your invaluable leadership and partnership as Deputy Attorney General.  I also want to thank the many federal law enforcement leaders and component heads who are with us here today.  And I want to thank the many U.S. Attorneys who have traveled to be here today.  You are the face of the department at the local level, and I am so grateful for your commitment to serving the people of your districts.  Finally, I want to extend a special thank you to Director Ron Davis of our Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS Office.  Ron and his outstanding team are utterly devoted to giving police officers the support they need to excel at their difficult and dangerous jobs.  For the past several weeks, they have been working all day and well into the night to make these awards possible, and I want to thank them for their tireless efforts.

It is a pleasure to be here today and it is a privilege to welcome so many colleagues and guests to the Great Hall for the inaugural presentation of the Attorney General’s Awards for Distinguished Service in Community Policing.  I especially want to welcome the proud family members, friends and other special guests of today’s honorees.  I am sure that our awardees would be the first to say that your support and encouragement made their accomplishments possible.  This day belongs to you as well, and I am so pleased that you could join us.

It is no accident that we are holding this ceremony during National Community Policing Week, which was established by presidential proclamation last Friday.  Throughout the week, we have joined with our partners around the country to hold hundreds of events designed to foster dialogue, promote understanding and forge cooperation – everything from police-community forums and service projects to lunches and basketball tournaments.   But community policing is about more than celebrating one week’s worth of outstanding effort.   In addition to all of these positive activities, today we look back over the past year and recognize those sworn officers who have shown an uncommon commitment to responsive and cooperative policing. We wanted to draw national attention to your transformative work. That is why we are here today: to thank, to honor, and to celebrate a truly outstanding group of public servants.

These inspiring men and women have been nominated for these awards by their colleagues and their communities.  Each of them embodies the very best of their profession.  They understand that their role is not just to enforce the law, but to secure justice.  They recognize that the badge they wear represents a sacred trust – one that they strive to fulfill each and every day.  And they view the citizens they serve not as adversaries or opponents, but as partners, allies and neighbors.  Everything that they do – whether it is an effort as large as running a youth outreach program, or a gesture as small as learning a neighbor’s name – makes a real difference in their communities, and we are here to share our admiration and our gratitude.

Among the exemplary public servants that we salute are two officers who focused on the long-range needs of youth in their challenged community and implemented a behavior-based education program that teaches young people the importance of character, integrity, and cooperation.  We recognize an officer who helped transform her department’s approach to youth engagement by looking at the underlying needs of the children they saw every day, eliminating school-based arrests and creating a comprehensive system of care that provides food, mental health services and drug counseling to young people in need.  And we honor an officer who is regarded as one of the best crisis intervention team instructors in the region.  He also leads his department’s homeless outreach efforts; helps veterans receive their benefits; and even collected and transported water from Virginia to Flint, Michigan on his own time and without compensation. 

These are just a few of the remarkable officers that we honor today.  No matter where you come from or which department you serve, you are all passionate about service, faithful to the law, and devoted to the people who depend on you.  For you, going above and beyond the call of duty is just part of the job – not tied to the contours of your shift or even the hour of the day. You are the face of justice in your community.  And you know that justice is about more than the cases you make; it is about the people you help.   Although your work rarely receives the applause it deserves, I hope you know how proud I am of each and every one of you.  And I am certain that everyone else in the room feels the same way – so let’s give this tremendous group of officers some of that long-overdue applause.

Your actions bear powerful witness to the effectiveness of a collaborative and community-oriented approach to public safety – the approach that I have been committed to advancing as Attorney General.  Shortly after taking office, I embarked on a 12-city Community Policing Tour, which gave me a firsthand look at some of the outstanding work underway across the country – the kind of work we honor today.  In phase one, I visited six cities that are taking courageous steps to overcome histories of strained community-police relationships – from Birmingham, Alabama, where the Citizen’s Police Academy helps young people understand the unique stresses and dangers that police officers face every day, because the best way to truly know someone is to stand in their shoes; to Cincinnati, Ohio, where an innovative program puts police officers in local classrooms as tutors and mentors, and they come to be known as guardians and peacemakers.  During the tour’s second phase, I visited six municipalities, each of them at the forefront of implementing one of the six pillars identified in final report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.  In Indianapolis, Indiana, for example, I saw the steps the police department there is taking to promote the physical and emotional health of its officers, so they can be  fully prepared to help others in need.  In Fayetteville, North Carolina, I met with the Police Chief’s Youth Advisory Council, a group of local high school students helping to shape law enforcement policies relating to adolescents, connecting the department with the community of today and of the future.  And in Los Angeles, I spoke with officers about the LAPD’s “Homelessness COMPSTAT” – a first-of-its-kind tool that the department uses to coordinate outreach and provide services to the city’s homeless population – letting them truly see those whom society often deems invisible.

Everywhere I went – from Seattle, Washington, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and from Richmond, California, to East Haven, Connecticut – I saw everyday citizens who were determined to improve their neighborhoods.  I saw devoted law enforcement officers going the extra mile to lend a helping hand.  And I saw their shared commitment to forging innovative solutions to our toughest public safety challenges.  My tour was an inspiring and eye-opening experience, and I know we are joined today by many of the U.S. Attorneys and district representatives who participated.  At this time, I ask all of you to stand and be recognized.

The Community Policing Tour is just one of the ways we have been striving to build trust and encourage cooperation between citizens and law enforcement.  From mediating in times of conflict and tension, to helping departments purchase body-worn cameras and other vital tools, the Department of Justice remains committed to a range of activities designed to help communities approach public safety together.  And today, as part of that ongoing commitment, it is my pleasure to announce two exciting awards.  First, the COPS Office will be providing an additional $12 million in grants to advance community policing programs – including national projects that support the findings of the President’s Task Force for 21st Century Policing.   And our Office for Victims of Crime is giving $7 million to help communities respond to high profile violence, including shootings that involve law enforcement officers.  This grant is made to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in collaboration with the NAACP and the Yale School of Medicine, and it will help cities defuse tension and promote healing after traumatic acts of violence.  This partnership represents the best of collaborations – where those with different voices but one goal come together to bring hope and help to those who rely on us all.

We are certainly in need of that hope and that help in the United States today.  There is no doubt that these are difficult times.  We take steps forward, only to be pulled back by another tragic loss of life, of civilians and officers.  Families grieve, and know the same pain.  We often feel lost in the face of so much pain and anger.  And we wonder if somehow, the very fabric of our society is becoming unraveled.

These questions are understandable.  But let me tell you why I am not just hopeful, but confident, that we will emerge from this trying time stronger and more united than ever.  Because across this country, I have seen citizens and officers alike – all of you – rise to the challenge and say that this pain will not define us. This anger will not limit us. We will rise above it and we will soar. And soar you have. Through the courage and selflessness of the countless law enforcement officers, leaders and citizens I have had the privilege of meeting during my time as Attorney General, you have transcended the voices of division. Through the commitment and dedication of the outstanding individuals we honor today, you have provided a different – one of hope and one of healing – one of caring and one of concern.  When I meet  a detective who patrols an Indian reservation the size of Connecticut by himself, so that our original Americans can know the security that we all take for granted; or an officer who knocked on hundreds of doors to bring some measure of justice and comfort to victims of sexual assault, so that those in their darkest hour know someone will speak for them – when I meet remarkable people like all of you, I am reminded of the  compassion and generosity of the American people, and I cannot help but be inspired.  Your work and your deeds may seem separate and unique, but they are part of a fabric of service and dedication that spans this country, and they remind us of what is best about our nation.  Your actions inspire all of us to do more for our neighbors, our communities, and our country.  And your example challenges us to refuse the easy course of indifference and apathy, and to choose the harder path of engagement, sacrifice, and action – the path that we have always chosen in our past; the path that I know will lead us to an even brighter future.

So on behalf of the entire Department of Justice, let me thank each and every one of you for all that you have done and continue to do.  Let me thank you for being beacons of hope in these difficult times.  And I commit to you, as the Attorney General of these United States, that as we continue to work together to build a better nation and empower all of our communities, you will always have my utmost respect, my deepest thanks, and my strongest support.  Congratulations, once again, on these well-deserved awards.  And keep up the excellent work.  Thank you.

Updated February 9, 2017