Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you so very much for being here. Before I move into my discussion of the morning’s event, I do want to note the tragic loss of life of an officer from St. Louis County as well as a Sheriff Sergeant in Los Angeles County over the last two days. Obviously two separate, unrelated incidents but again, underscoring the tragic danger that so many of our officers face and of course our hearts go out to their law enforcement organizations and families and we ask that you keep them all in your prayers.
I want to thank U.S. Attorney [Paul] Fishman for his outstanding service to the people of New Jersey and for his tireless efforts to advance community policing. I also want to thank Mayor [Ras] Baraka and Chief [Darnell] Henry for their hospitality in welcoming me to Newark and for their commitment to ensuring that everyone who calls this great city home enjoys the safety and dignity they deserve.
I am here today as part of National Community Policing Week, which was officially proclaimed by President Obama last Friday. Since Sunday, the Department of Justice and our local partners have held hundreds of events designed to promote dialogue and foster cooperation between law enforcement and the citizens we serve. In the Indianapolis, for instance, the U.S. Attorney’s Office joined with local middle school students and law enforcement officers to paint a mural at a police roll call site. In the Pittsburgh area, the U.S. Marshals service hosted three panel discussions about housing, education, and community-police relations. And in Atlanta, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the local black prosecutors’ association co-hosted a panel discussion with the community’s young black men, giving them a chance to discuss their experiences with law enforcement. Through these and many other events, we have been striving all week to help police and residents find common ground, develop mutual respect and adopt a collaborative approach to public safety.
That work is one of my top priorities as Attorney General, which is why I have spent my week with citizens, law enforcement and local leaders who are striving to replace stereotypes with understanding and apathy with action. On Monday, I traveled to Dallas, where the captains of the Dallas Cowboys joined me for a roundtable discussion with police academy recruits and local youth about how they can positively affect their communities. I also attended a local National Night Out event and I visited with the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police – two departments still mourning the deaths of their colleagues in last July’s awful shooting. For years, Dallas has been a national leader in community policing and the city’s show of resilience and unity in the wake of this summer’s tragedy should inspire all of us to ask how we can be part of the solution in our own communities.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of welcoming a group of nine outstanding officers to Washington to receive the inaugural Attorney General’s Awards for Distinguished Service in Community Policing, which recognized their exceptional commitment to working hand-in-hand with the people they serve. And here in Newark, we just concluded the department’s final Justice Forum. This summer, in response to the tragic loss of citizens and officers in Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and I launched a series of four Justice Forums. These regional meetings brought together a range of local leaders and stakeholders for a frank discussion of their communities’ strengths and challenges. At the end of each forum, the group agreed to a series of concrete solutions that they can pursue with the Justice Department’s support. I want to commend the people of Newark for the openness, courage, and commitment that made this morning’s forum so productive. I look forward to seeing your work unfold in the months ahead. And I promise that the Department of Justice will be with you every step of the way.
None of us has any illusions that we will solve these problems overnight. They are complex, and deeply rooted in the injustices of our past. But that does not mean we must allow them to shape our future. We all have a stake in the well-being of our neighborhoods, and if we remind ourselves of this basic bond; if we seek to listen to and understand one another; and if we choose to do the hard work of coming together to ensure equal justice and opportunity for all – if we do all these things, then I am certain that we can and will make lasting and widespread progress, not just here in Newark, but in communities throughout the United States.
And as I address equal justice and equal opportunity here today, I also want to discuss another cornerstone of our democracy: the right to vote. There is no doubt that the Shelby County decision in 2013 severely curtailed our ability to uphold that right. Indeed, this fall will be our nation’s first presidential election in almost 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. But I am firmly committed to using every tool at our disposal to defend every eligible American’s access to the ballot box. We have won a number of important suits against restrictive state laws. We will be deploying a robust number of trained department personnel into roughly half of the nation’s states this fall – at least as many states as in 2012, despite the setback of Shelby County. This expert team will watch the proceedings carefully to make sure that the elections are conducted fairly and in accordance with federal voting rights laws – and to ensure that we continue to enjoy a strong and vibrant democracy where every citizen has a say in how they will be governed. Our nation was founded to guarantee that right, and I want to assure the American people that the Department of Justice will continue to do everything in our power to defend it.
I want to once again thank Mayor Baraka and the people of Newark for welcoming me today. I applaud the progress that they have already made together. And I pledge the Justice Department’s ongoing support for their efforts in the days to come. Thank you, and I am happy to take a few questions at this time.