Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Ron [Davis], for those kind words and for your outstanding leadership of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). Ron’s leadership in this field is truly exceptional. His recognition of the importance of peer to peer connections and information sharing and the value of the knowledge that resides in the field, is a key reason for the success of our COPS program. It’s a pleasure join so many law enforcement officers, youth representatives, faith leaders and community officials. And it’s a privilege to be a part of such a rich and rewarding day of conversation and collaboration. I hope today’s forum has given you some new ideas to take back to your communities, as well as some fresh approaches you can bring to our shared mission of promoting public safety, safeguarding national security and defending the rights of everyone who calls this nation home.
That has been the essential mission of this task force since it was established by President Obama just a few months ago – to recognize long-simmering tensions; to examine the challenges we face; and to find new and innovative solutions to some of the most pressing – and most persistent – issues confronting our nation today. This forum is just one of many events that will ensure that those solutions and recommendations make their way into the field, where they can make the positive and lasting difference we all want to see for generations to come.
I am pleased to say that the Department of Justice has been dedicated to the task force’s work since its inception and going forward, we intend to do our part to see that its promise is realized. Our Civil Rights Division is working with police departments around the country to ensure constitutional policing – in part by combating discrimination, ending excessive use of force and promoting accountability systems – in order to help rebuild community trust where it has eroded. Our Bureau of Justice Assistance, under the Office of Justice Programs, is administering a $20 million Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program to equip law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to protect themselves and their communities. Under Ron’s outstanding leadership, our COPS Office is issuing $163 million in grant solicitations to support state, local and tribal law enforcement in implementing the report’s recommendations and is looking to the field – to partners like you – to seed additional innovation through its field-initiated project grant. And last September, we launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, which is investing in training; advancing evidence-based strategies; spurring policy development; and supporting research that promotes credibility, enhances procedural justice, reduces implicit bias and drives racial reconciliation. Looking forward, securing the resources necessary to continue investing in our communities and in these programs, is critical. That’s why the President has been clear about his commitment to stand up to those who are determined to cut investments in our communities at any cost – cuts to preschool, cuts to job training programs, cuts to affordable housing, cuts to community policing – shortsighted cuts to investments that make this country strong.
I want you to know that our commitment to implementing the task force’s recommendations is felt strongly at every level of the department – including in the Office of the Attorney General. I understand on a fundamental level how important it is to form strong relationships between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve. After all, when officers and residents share reliable and resilient bonds, residents are more likely to help with investigations; victims and witnesses of crime are more likely to come forward; and law enforcement officers are better able to assist our neighbors and constituents when they are in trouble – or simply in need of a helping hand. Above all, we must ensure that our citizens feel safe in their communities. And I am committed to working with all of you – on a local level – where cities are already responding to the recommendations you have put in place. Throughout the task force process we have looked to you – local law enforcement, community, youth and faith leaders – for insights and recommendations, because you know the contours of the problems we all face. You live them every day. And your insights have been invaluable as we all work to fashion solutions.
That is why two months ago, I began a six-city tour to highlight some of the most promising work that citizens and law enforcement are doing together to build new foundations of trust, respect and mutual understanding. In Cincinnati, Ohio, I spoke with civic and public safety leaders from all backgrounds who described the way their collaboration has transformed the city into a more welcoming and inclusive place. Cincinnati is now facing another challenge with a life lost and our hope is that the relationships that have been built will produce an informed citizenry, a responsive police force and an open and transparent process towards justice. In Birmingham, Alabama, I heard from community members who praised their police leadership and from young people whose new friendships with officers had fundamentally and positively changed their perceptions of those who wear the badge. And just two days ago, I was in East Haven, Connecticut, where the police department has experienced a profound cultural shift in just the last four years, leading to progress that an independent monitor overseeing East Haven’s reforms described as “truly remarkable.”
In the coming weeks, I will continue my tour in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Seattle, Washington; and Richmond, California. I look forward to seeing the innovation and collaboration that all of these cities have spearheaded. I am enthusiastic about the possibilities of sharing their efforts, their lessons and their insights with all of you. And I am excited about discussing how we can apply those insights in communities from coast to coast that are struggling with similar issues. Translating good ideas and effective solutions from one jurisdiction to another is what this gathering is all about and it is how the President’s Task Force will be able to have the nationwide impact President Obama intended.
Of course, there is much work left for us to do and I have no illusions that it will be simple or straightforward. We face challenges whose causes are deeply rooted and our commitment to addressing them must be equally deep. But thanks to leaders like you – the women and men in this room and your colleagues and counterparts across the country – I also have no doubt about what we can accomplish. I am excited about the progress we will make. And I am confident that this gathering will provide a shining example of what we can achieve when dedicated public servants, passionate community members and devoted law enforcement officers come together to create the stronger, safer, more united communities that all Americans deserve.
Thank you, once again, for your service to this country, your leadership within your communities and your surpassing devotion to the cause of justice. I urge you to keep up the outstanding work.