Remarks as Delivered
Thank you, Vanita, for that kind introduction.
I also want to thank you for your leadership at the Justice Department. For those of you who do not know, Associate Attorney General Gupta oversees a significant portion of the Department’s work. Every day, I see how she prioritizes supporting community-oriented policing efforts.
It is just one of the many things she does to advance the Department’s partnerships with law enforcement officials across the country.
I also want to thank President Holston for hosting us today.
Thank you, Chief Ramos, for your leadership of the DeKalb County Police Department. It is a privilege to honor exceptional members of your department today.
I also want to thank the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, Erskine.
Finally, I want to thank Rob Chapman, Acting Director of the Department’s Office for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), and the entire COPS Office team, for overseeing the awards that bring us here today.
Every day, law enforcement officers across the country work to strengthen the community ties that are essential for public safety.
The Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Community Policing recognizes individual officers for exceptional efforts in policing.
This year, the Justice Department received hundreds of nominations for these awards. From these hundreds of nominations, only 18 were selected.
From those 18 award winners, three came from the DeKalb County Police Department.
It is my honor to recognize Detective Ricketts, Detective Prather, and Detective Webber.
It would be a significant understatement to say that Detectives Ricketts, Prather, and Webber are just highly deserving of this high honor. I want to say super-highly deserving. [Laughter]
Detective Ricketts joined the DeKalb County Police Department in 2005. For several years he has been an active member of the county’s Police Athletic League (PAL) unit.
In fact, I am told that growing up he was a youth member of the New York City PAL program. He is clearly paying that experience forward in remarkable ways.
Detective Ricketts has developed and coordinated several PAL programs, including the Career Development Program and the After Dark Basketball Summer League.
Detective Prather joined the police department in 2007. She created a mentorship program for high school students.
Through this program, high school students get to form relationships with law enforcement officers that are based on respect and trust.
In the spare time that Detective Prather – how she has any spare time I’m not sure – but in the spare time she has, Detective Prather has also coached the PAL cheerleading program.
Detective Webber joined the DeKalb County PD in 2006 as a patrol officer.
She went on to become a part of the department’s Interactive Community policing team and a detective in the Special Victims Unit, where she investigated sexual assaults, domestic violence, and crimes against children and the elderly.
Inspired by her love of dance, she created a program to teach DeKalb County youth ballet, African dance, and contemporary dance.
Through these programs, she provided a way for children to express themselves freely and openly while interacting with police officers.
I would stop here and that would be reason enough to recognize these exceptional detectives.
But when the pandemic broke, and the schools shut, they only upped their game.
When the pandemic threatened to leave at-risk youth with no summer programs, they implemented a Virtual Summer Academy that connected participants remotely.
They partnered with community leaders, teachers, coaches, businesses, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits to get the program off the ground. I don’t know how they did it, but each of them told me you can do basketball, you can do cheerleading, you can do dance – remotely. I wish I had been in those programs. [Laughter]
When the summer ended, they launched a Back to School Backpack Giveaway, which provided supplies to students.
Then, when they noticed children selling bottled water on the interstate ramps, so they intervened again. This time, they implemented a four-month life skills program to provide students with personal growth opportunities.
As part of the program, they partnered with our host today: Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
They also partnered with other mentors, volunteers, police department support units.
Eight of the initial nine participants gained employment. The ninth joined in a dual enrollment program here at the college.
I want to underscore that these actions would have been tremendous during the best of times.
They occurred though, during a pandemic. And the fact that they did is further evidence of their commitment to the community they serve.
This is what community policing looks like in practice: forging relationships, reaching out, building the trust that makes our communities safer.
The Justice Department is grateful, and we are proud to stand alongside you.
In a few moments, I will invite the detectives to receive their awards.
But first, I want us all to take a second to thank another group: the family, the friends, and the colleagues of the awardees.
Your support made these accomplishments possible. Today is a day to celebrate you, as well.
Now let me now invite all of our award recipients to the stage.
Please give them a big round of applause.