Justice News

Attorney General Sessions Delivers Remarks to the International Association of Chiefs of Police
Philadelphia, PA
United States
~
Monday, October 23, 2017

Remarks as prepared for delivery


Thank you Chief De Lucca, for that kind introduction.  Much more importantly, thank you for your more than 30 years of service in law enforcement.  And I’m told that your term as President is ending: congratulations on a job well done.  And congratulations to your successor, Lou Dekmar of LaGrange, Georgia.

I also want to congratulate the Department of Justice’s longest-serving Law Enforcement Coordinator, Didi Nelson of the Atlanta U.S. Attorney’s Office, on receiving this year’s Human and Civil Rights Award. 

While you’re here, I hope you will all get the chance to meet Steve Cook. He is the Director of our Office of Law Enforcement Liaison and an important part of my team to ensure we are serving our law enforcement partners and are growing those relationships.

I’m told that yesterday you got to hear from FBI Director Christopher Wray about continued ways for his agents and analysts in the field to partner more closely with your intelligence commanders as well. We’re all very pleased to have Chris on board.

On behalf of President Trump, it is an honor to be here with you all today – to be with the selfless and courageous men and women of law enforcement.

I want to commend the IACP for bringing together more than 30,000 police chiefs from 150 countries to learn from one another and build relationships. 

In particular, I want to thank the more than 100 police officers from 15 countries who are here with the Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Assistance Program, or ICITAP, with support from the Department of State.   Your work, in partnership with the in-country ICITAP advisors, makes people safer all around the world.  Thank you again.

The threats we face have been growing.  As the criminal element becomes more international, we must as well. That’s why conferences like this are exactly what we need.  I have increased DOJ’s MLAT personnel and will do more to reduce response time. We will challenge others to do the same.

We are all facing a deadly lucrative international drug trade.  Drugs are killing more Americans than ever before in large part thanks to powerful cartels and international gangs and deadly new synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Perhaps the most brutal of these gangs is MS-13 – which is based in El Salvador, but whose tentacles reach across Central America, Europe, through 40 U.S. States, and to within yards of the U.S. Capitol.

With more than 40,000 members worldwide – including 10,000 in the United States – MS-13 threatens the lives and wellbeing of each and every family everywhere they infest.

MS-13 members brutally rape, rob, extort, and murder.  Guided by their motto – “kill, rape, and control” – they leave misery, devastation, and death in their wake.

But at the U.S. Department of Justice, we have a motto too: justice for victims and consequences for criminals.  This is our motto and that is our mission.

Cross-border collaboration is essential. 

We’ve already achieved some important successes this year.  Just last month, the Department of Justice – along with our partners in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – announced criminal charges against more than 3,800 gang members operating across the United States and Central America.  This coordinated action, known as Operation Regional Shield, targeted MS-13 and 18th Street gang members and seized their firearms, vehicles, and other assets. 

But this work is not finished.  I am announcing today that I have designated MS-13 as a priority for our Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.  These task forces bring together a broad coalition of our federal prosecutors, DEA, FBI, ATF, ICE, HSI, the IRS, the Department of Labor Inspector General, the Postal Service Inspectors, the Secret Service, the Marshals Service, and the Coast Guard.  And they all have one mission: to go after drug criminals and traffickers at the highest levels. 

Now they will go after MS-13 with a renewed vigor and a sharpened focus.  I am announcing that I have authorized them to use every lawful tool to investigate MS-13—not just our drug laws, but everything from RICO to our tax laws to our firearms laws.  Just like we took Al Capone off the streets with our tax laws, we will use whatever laws we have to get MS-13 off of our streets.

But MS-13 is not the only target of our international cooperation.

In July, we announced the seizure and take down of AlphaBay— the largest dark net marketplace takedown in history.  This site hosted more than 200,000 drug sale listings and was responsible for countless synthetic opioid overdoses across the globe, including the tragic death of a 13 year old in Utah. 

This takedown was successful because of our close cooperation with our international partners at Europol and in Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

But at the Department of Justice, we don’t just coordinate between national governments.  We’re a federal department, but we also coordinate with state and local law enforcement.  In the United States, 85 percent of law enforcement officers serve at the state and local levels.  We cannot succeed without local police chiefs. 

Back in February, just weeks after taking office, President Trump issued an executive order that asked DOJ to enhance the protection and safety of our law enforcement.  This is a critical mission for us.  Law enforcement is a noble profession and one that demands respect. 

I’m here today on behalf of President Trump and the Department of Justice to say thank you.  I am proud to stand with you.  The Department of Justice is proud to stand with you.  We have your back.

In addition to his ‘back the blue’ order, President Trump sent us a second order: reduce crime in America.  His third order was to dismantle transnational criminal organizations.

In order to fulfill these important goals, I changed the charging policy for our federal prosecutors, trusting them once again and directing them to once again charge the most serious, readily provable offense.

Further, I ordered our prosecutors to focus on taking illegal guns off of our streets.  Since then we have seen a 23 percent increase in the number of criminals charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.  That makes all of us safer—but especially the law enforcement officers who are conducting searches and making arrests and going into dangerous situations.  I know that this is a priority for IACP and for police chiefs across America.

We understand our state and local partners are our strongest allies, our greatest resources, and that you deserve our support.

That’s why, in July, we reinstituted our adoptive sharing program, ensuring that criminals will not be permitted to profit from their crimes.  As President Trump knows well, civil asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed, and it weakens the criminals and the cartels.  In departments across this country, funds that were once used to take lives are now being used to save lives.

IACP has been a long-time advocate for this approach, and we’re pleased to respond to your priority request.

For the equitable sharing program to be effective, however, we need to maintain public confidence.  That’s why last week, I directed Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to appoint a Director of Asset Forfeiture Accountability to oversee the Department's asset forfeiture program and ensure no errors or overreach.  

I want this director to begin work immediately on recommendations like updating the Asset Forfeiture Program’s policy guidance. Better asset forfeiture practices will make us more effective and better partners with you.

The Department of Justice also provides help through our grant programs. Today I am announcing that the IACP and several other law enforcement agencies will be receiving awards through the Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS.

The IACP will receive more than $200,000 for its Institute for Police and Community Relations, which aims to build trust and cooperation between law enforcement and the communities they serve. We know that any professional department must focus every day on community relations. 

Additionally, we will fund $5 million for training across the country to improve rapid responses to active shooter events.  And as I just announced this past weekend, the Department will soon award about $100 million in grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to hire more police officers.

The number of police officers per capita in this country increased steadily from 1992 to 2007.  At the same time, we saw historic decreases in the crime rate.  But from 2007 to 2012, the number of police officers per capita fell by nearly six percent.  Since then, the number of federal prisoners decreased by one-eighth in just three years.

Now, we might be tempted to congratulate ourselves on that.  But crime is up.  The murder rate has suddenly jumped by more than 20 percent in the past two years, and the violent crime rate by nearly seven percent.  

It seems to me that we don’t have a sentencing problem: we have a crime problem.  Hiring more police can help change that.

But I want to be clear about something.  Our goal is not to fill up the courts or the prisons.  Our goal is to reduce crime, just as President Trump directed us to do.  Our goal is to make every community safer—especially the most vulnerable.

That’s why I am also announcing today that several state and local law enforcement agencies will also receive $3 million through the Community Policing Development program. 

These awards will help equip our state and local partners with better training, tools, and tactics to fight crime and serve their communities. We know good professional policing works. 

And that’s what this is about: serving our communities.  That’s why we’re here.  Everyone in this room—even though we are from all over the globe—is united in one mission.  Whether you’re from Indiana or India—or rural Alabama—we all share the same goal: protecting our families, our cities, and our countries from violence and crime.  And while no two countries or even cities face the same situation, we face many of the same threats and can benefit from many of the same tactics and policies. We truly believe our PSN program just announced will compliment your community police based tactics. 

To sum up, let me share a few thoughts.  During my almost 40 years in this work, I have come to understand that we must see our criminal justice system as a whole.  

From our police officers to our state law enforcement and forensic departments, to our local and state prosecutors, our judges and juries, to our prison system and to our probation and parole officers, we are one system.  Yet, we have different roles, different laws, different lines of authority and different funding sources.  

Over the last several decades we have definitely reached higher levels of partnership and collaboration.  One of my highest goals is to continue, even accelerate that cooperation.  

We at the Department of Justice, with our federal partners at the Department of Homeland security and other federal agencies—FBI, DEA, ATF, US Marshals—fabulously trained agents all—know that there is more we can do together. An arrest of a single drug courier in Columbus, Ohio can lead to a national and international cartel take down. A defendant with prescription drugs in New Hampshire can lead to a corrupt doctor or pharmacist in Miami. With the click of a mouse, a teenager can order fentanyl from China, causing the death of a 13 year old in Utah.  

In many ways our work, supports and facilitates the extension of your cases. 

I want to thank you all for working together in IACP and for making a commitment to this difficult but noble work.  And I look forward to being your partner to make our countries – and our world – safer places.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Updated October 23, 2017