Thank you, Director [Ron] Davis, for that kind introduction and for your tireless efforts to advance community policing throughout the United States. Ron’s leadership in this field is truly exceptional and his outstanding work is a key reason for the success of our Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. I also want to express my gratitude to the White House for hosting this important summit, and I want to thank Valerie Jarrett and Neil Eggleston for joining us earlier this morning. And I want to take a moment to offer a special word of gratitude to Melanca Clark, who has served as the COPS Office Chief of Staff for the last two years.
During that time, Melanca has become known for her inexhaustible work ethic; her incomparable attention to detail; and above all, her fierce devotion to equal justice under the law – attributes that have made her an invaluable asset to our community policing programs. No one has a stronger commitment to the work and needs of law enforcement than Melanca. After six years at the Department of Justice, Melanca is leaving to become President and CEO of the Hudson-Webber Foundation – a Detroit community development nonprofit. Melanca, our loss is Detroit’s gain. I want to thank you for all that you’ve done on behalf of the Department of Justice and the American people, and I wish you the very best in your new endeavor.
It is a pleasure to be at the White House today. It is a privilege to stand alongside so many valued colleagues, vital partners, devoted law enforcement officers and dedicated public servants. And it is a particular honor to join you as we reflect on the progress we’ve made; as we discuss the challenges that lie ahead; and as we reaffirm our shared commitment to ensuring that law enforcement officers have the tools, training and support they need to serve their communities safely and effectively. This has been a successful collaboration precisely because of the dedication and professionalism of everyone who came to the table, who shared experiences and recommendations and who actively listened to all points of view to arrive at the best solutions for difficult challenges.
Our work to help law enforcement adjust to the specific challenges of the 21st century has arisen from an intensely difficult set of circumstances. In cities across the United States – from Ferguson, Missouri, to New York, and from Cleveland to Baltimore – we’ve seen long-simmering and deeply rooted tensions boil over into protest, discord and even – tragically – into violence. We’ve seen law enforcement officers called upon to deal with an expanding set of issues, including mental illness and substance abuse. We’ve seen police officers, as the most visible representatives of public authority, become lightning rods for feelings of frustration and alienation. We’ve seen the omnipresence of recording devices and social media shine a light on circumstances that have challenged some communities for years, and that have brought us to a moment where we can reevaluate how law enforcement interacts with the communities we serve. And of course the volume around the challenges we face often served to obscure the positive work being done in many communities.
There is no doubt that this is a moment of unprecedented challenge for police and citizens alike. But it is also a moment of rare opportunity – the opportunity to reexamine old assumptions and habits; to identify new approaches and practices; and to refocus on our common goals. The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing was created at the end of 2014 to examine how all of us – law enforcement officers, elected officials, community leaders and residents – can make the most of this opportunity. And the task force’s final report, released one year ago, represents a comprehensive and accessible blueprint for reducing crime, fostering trust and mutual respect and increasing collaboration between law enforcement and the citizens we serve.
I am proud to say that in the year since the release of the final report, the Department of Justice has also taken real and significant action, working hard to amplify and implement the task force’s recommendations in a number of ways. We created the COPS Office Policing Practices and Accountability Initiative – led with distinction by Noble Wray – which is responsible for working with law enforcement agencies, civic leaders and experts in the field to carry out the task force’s proposals in jurisdictions around the country. Our Office of Justice Programs and our National Institute of Justice have begun supporting research that will examine the effects of a number of the practices endorsed by the report, from use-of-force training to community policing. All of you are aware of our emphasis on training, particularly in areas such as implicit bias and procedural justice. And our COPS Office has now joined with CNA – a nonprofit research organization – and the International Association of Chiefs of Police to launch the 21st Century Policing Project – an initiative that will provide feedback and technical assistance to a number of state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies that have already shown exceptional progress in advancing the principles of the president’s task force.
Of course, this work doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it certainly doesn’t all come from Washington. That’s why, at the same time that we’re embarking on these exciting and promising initiatives, we’re also making sure that we recognize and highlight the outstanding contributions of people like you: our partners on the ground who are making progress possible and making change a reality. I’m currently in the middle of the second phase of my community policing tour, during which I am visiting six cities that have each excelled in one of the six foundational pillars of the task force’s report. At each stop, I’m highlighting the unique and innovative ways that local agencies are rethinking their approach to public safety. This year, I’ve already been to Miami and Doral, Florida; Portland, Oregon; and Indianapolis, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak with officers and community leaders who are working together and making extraordinary strides. Later today, I’ll be flying to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to discuss that city’s focus on more effective policies and increased transparency. And in the next couple of months I’ll be travelling to Phoenix and Los Angeles.
Throughout this experience – in the cities I’ve been to already this year and in the six I travelled to during the first phase of my community policing tour last year – I’ve heard civic and public safety leaders from all backgrounds describe how their collaboration has transformed their community into a more welcoming and inclusive place. I’ve listened to community members praise their police leadership for recognizing their concerns and working with them to promote constructive interactions and better outcomes. And I’ve spoken with young people whose new friendships with officers had fundamentally and positively changed their perceptions of those who wear the badge. I have seen innovation and cooperation, perceptive insights and new ideas. And above all, I have seen shining examples 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.
The work that I have seen throughout my time as Attorney General demonstrates both our existing strengths as well as our strong potential – the potential we have to make real and enduring change – change that reverberates far beyond the Obama Administration; that takes root in communities around the country; and that blooms into a safer, brighter and more just future for generations to come. I could not be prouder to stand with you in that essential endeavor. I could not be more enthusiastic about where our shared efforts will take us. And I want you to know that the Department of Justice will continue to do everything in our power to support and celebrate your heroic work to reimagine policing in the 21st century.
Thank you, once again, for your courage, your commitment and your uncommon valor. Thank you for the service you provide every day. And thank you for your partnership in the work of our time.