Good morning, everyone, and thank you for being here. Thank you, U.S. Attorney [Paul] Fishman, for that kind introduction, and for your exemplary service to the people of New Jersey. And thank you, Mayor [Ras] Baraka and Chief [Darnell] Henry, for your hospitality in welcoming me to Newark, and for your commitment to ensuring that all the people of Newark can live lives of safety, opportunity, and dignity. I also want to recognize a number of valued colleagues who are with me today: Director [Ron] Davis of our Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS Office; Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division; Assistant Attorney General [Karol] Mason of the Office of Justice Programs; and Paul Monteiro of the Community Relations Service. It is a pleasure to be here, and it is a privilege to join so many dedicated citizens and inspiring leaders.
There is no doubt that we gather here today at a time of challenge in our country. As recent events have so painfully reminded us, the relationship between law enforcement and the communities we serve – especially communities of color – are too often characterized by suspicion and mistrust. When that mistrust is allowed to grow worse, we all lose. But at the same time, work is being done in communities across this nation to bring law enforcement and community together, as neighbors, as partners and as allies with the common goal of keeping all of our citizens safe, secure and respected.
That is why President Obama has designated this week as National Community Policing Week. And that is why we are here today: Because we recognize that we all have a stake in a stronger and more united community, and because we know that progress is possible. Today’s meeting is the final in a series of Justice Forums that we have been holding around the nation since the summer. The purpose of these gatherings is to bring together local stakeholders to ask hard questions, to seek honest answers, to listen to one another’s ideas and perspectives. But above all, we are here to take action. And while this may be the final Justice Forum, it is by no means the end of our work.
I want this to be a real working session that results in a written set of ideas: efforts that you have seen work here in Newark and the surrounding area, and that you think can serve as a model for jurisdictions across the nation. I’m asking you to be brief, and to keep the focus on concrete actions that we can take together. The Department of Justice will publicize these ideas in order to help drive the dialogue in Newark, and to give other cities a template to draw upon. I have asked U.S. Attorney Fishman to remain engaged with the work that emerges from this meeting. His office will be available to hear your concerns, to consider your proposals, to offer assistance, and to serve as a liaison to the rest of the Department of Justice, which is committed to supporting you in your efforts in the weeks and months to come.
The Justice Department will stand beside you, but ultimately, the success of the proposals that will arise from this meeting rests in your hands. And that’s a good thing, because the best agents of change for a community are the people who run its businesses, who live in its neighborhoods, and who patrol its streets. That is all of you, and I am confident that by coming together, we can move beyond this difficult time to a brighter day. Thank you, and with that, let’s get started.