Justice News

Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Remarks at the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice Opening Ceremony
Washington, DC
United States
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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here today. It is a privilege to announce the establishment of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.

I want to start by recognizing the hard work and vision of many here today in the law enforcement community, including Pat Yoes and Jim Pasco (FOP) as well as Chief Casstevens, Chief Cell, Vince Talucci, and Terry Cunningham (IACP). I particularly want to recognize the work of the IACP, which for over 20 years has made the establishment of a Commission a national priority. Without its commitment, we would not be here today. We look forward to working with the IACP and, indeed, all law enforcement organizations to make this effort a success. Thank you also to Ben Tucker, First Deputy Commissioner of the NYPD, and Kathy O’Toole, retired Commissioner of the Boston Police Department, for being here with us today.

President Trump is an unwavering supporter of our men and women in blue, and he recognized that this Commission is much needed to support law enforcement. It is, to be sure, long overdue. The last time there was a National Commission on law enforcement was in 1965.

Much about our world has changed in the decades since President Johnson’s Commission. The incredible pace of technological change has meant the rapid evolution of new ways to commit and conceal crimes. All of you, because you’re on the front lines, see this everyday – from the proliferation of synthetic opioids to the use of warrant-proof encryption and the dark web to sexually exploit the most vulnerable members of society.

This Commission is critical, not only because it is timely, but also because few callings are more essential to the strength and prosperity of our nation than that of law enforcement. It is the rule of law that is fundamental to ensuring both freedom and security, and it is our more than 900,000 women and men on the beat who, every single day, uphold the rule of law. I have said it before: There is no calling in America more noble than serving as a police officer.

At the same time, law enforcement faces more and greater challenges than ever before. If the new obstacles presented by technology weren’t enough, in many communities, our officers must confront a wave of social problems, such as homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness – problems that demand solutions beyond their authority and expertise. 

Further, there has been, especially as of late, a disturbing pattern of cynicism and disrespect shown toward law enforcement. All Americans should agree that nobody wins when trust breaks down between the police and the community they serve. We need to address the divide.

As a result of the significant challenges faced by law enforcement officials today, many departments are reporting declines in hiring and morale. It’s particularly alarming that, last year, more officers died by suicide than any year previously recorded. In fact, more officers died by suicide than in the line of duty last year.

These are just a few of the reasons why President Trump directed me to establish this Commission. We must not only study crime to forge strategies for reducing it, but examine ways for promoting the profession of law enforcement in order to uplift those who answer the call to public service and to help them earn the trust of the communities they protect.

Accordingly, the Commission will comprehensively assess the most pressing issues confronting law enforcement today. It will seek to provide substantive and actionable answers to, among other questions, the following:

  • How do certain social ills, such as mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness affect the ability of law enforcement to carry out its duties?
  • How can we improve the relationship between the police and the communities they serve?
  • How can officer recruitment, training, and retention be improved?
  • What are the major issues affecting the physical safety and mental health of officers?
  • What unique issues and criminal threats have resulted from new technologies?
  • What is the cause of the apparent diminished respect for police officials and the laws they enforce, and how is public safety affected?
  • How can we integrate education, employment, social services, and public-health services to reduce crime and ease the burden on law enforcement?

The Commission will principally conduct its study through hearings, panel presentations, field visits, and other public meetings. At these engagements, the Commission will receive valuable insights, counsel, and recommendations from a diverse range of voices: subject matter experts, public officials, private citizens, academia, community organizations, civil-liberties groups, civic leadership, bar associations, and victims’ rights organizations.

While I am proud to announce the formation of this Commission, I’m also pleased by the distinguished individuals who will serve as Commissioners. The Department of Justice was required to assemble a small group from a large pool of highly-qualified candidates who expressed interest in participating.

We appointed these Commissioners based on a variety of criteria, seeking a range of different perspectives. We specifically sought out candidates who have had significant experience formulating law-enforcement policy and leading police departments and other law enforcement organizations. 

As you see here today, these Commissioners come from across the country, with diverse backgrounds, from all levels of government, and they have directly confronted, in many contexts, the issues that will be studied. 

The Commissioners are police chiefs from big cities and smaller ones, state prosecutors, county sheriffs, members of rural and tribal law enforcement, state public safety officials, federal agents, U.S. Attorneys, and a state attorney general. They have traveled from all over the country to participate in this historic moment.

I say to each of you serving as a Commissioner: You have the mandate to examine the entirety of how we carry out law enforcement in our country. 

My charge to you is this:

        Think creatively and boldly.         

        Test new ideas.

        Plan for our future.

        Consider diverse opinions and approaches.

        Challenge each other and the Department of Justice.

Your work is important to our success.

Our nation is ready for you to begin this critical enterprise. Your efforts may well influence generations. 

On behalf of the President and the entire Department of Justice, thank you in advance for your service to the country.

Now, I will ask the Commissioners-designate to come to the stage to take the Oath of Office.

Updated January 22, 2020