Remarks as prepared for delivery.
Good afternoon. It is an honor to welcome this distinguished group of American law enforcement leaders to the Justice Department. I want to thank the Attorney General for convening this Law Enforcement Summit. And I want to thank all of you for taking the time to join us here today and for the service you do your country and your communities every day. This Department is committed to building a strong partnership with you – our state, local and tribal partners.
I thought I would take this opportunity to speak with you about community policing in the 21st Century. We all know about community policing: our modern-day law enforcement system takes root in this concept. But times change, and the challenges our law enforcement officers face today require more from us and more from those we serve. In particular, community policing in the United States is built on two partnerships: first, and fundamentally, the partnership between state, local and tribal law enforcement and the communities they serve. And second, the partnership between these law enforcement agencies and the Department of Justice. The Attorney General and I know that fully meeting the challenges you and your partners in your communities face requires that this Department be a strong and engaged federal partner. We know that our partnership with you is also central to our mission.
Before talking about our partnership with you, let me say something about that first, fundamental partnership – the one between your agencies and the communities you serve. As a citizen, I enjoy the protection that you provide me, my family, and my neighborhood. But we the citizens too often overlook the role that we must play.
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote that, "The most important political office is that of private citizen." I couldn’t agree more.
This concept that we – the governed – as private citizens have certain communal responsibilities predates the American democratic experiment.
The Office of Sheriff is over a thousand years old and is mentioned no less than nine times in the Magna Carta. In early England, the sheriff was responsible for keeping the peace.
But keeping the peace was not just the sheriff’s job. Citizens also had a role to play. When help was needed, the sheriff would sound the alarm – known as the hue and cry – and all citizens who heard it were required to lend a hand.
So, what do sheriffs of the Middle Ages and modern day practitioners of community policing know that perhaps the rest of society does not? That police alone cannot ensure safe communities.
For decades we have added to the responsibilities of our state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies – asked you to do more, to fill the gaps created by troubled homes, failing schools, underfunded community organizations, and overwhelmed social services. You are a three digit phone call away from every citizen, and for many people you are the only representative of our democratic government that they ever see, usually when they are at their most vulnerable. But we must continue to instill in all citizens their own obligations to the community.
In the law, a partnership is defined as an association of two or more persons engaged in an enterprise in which the benefits and the burdens are shared proportionally. Partnership is woven throughout community policing, not only because it builds trust with the communities that you serve, but also because meaningful partnerships can provide the help you need to do the difficult work we ask you to do.
We must reengage, reinvigorate, and recruit partners in preserving public safety.
These may be fellow public servants who need a reminder that the boarded-up house on the corner, the abandoned car in the yard, and the burnt out streetlight down the road are their responsibility, too. We may look to church groups or other community groups with a history of successful work in the neighborhood.
In the end, however, it is the individual citizens who must answer the modern-day hue and cry and accept our proper role in making communities safe places to live, work, and raise our families. And community policing recognizes and builds on that truth.
Robert F. Kennedy, for whom this building we sit in today is named, eloquently expressed this idea when he said,
The glory of justice and the majesty of the law are created not just by the Constitution - nor by the courts - nor by the officers of the law - nor by the lawyers - but by the men and women who constitute our society-who are protectors of the law as they are themselves protected by the law.
He was right. And what better way to encourage those we serve of the need for their commitment to this partnership than through our own example. We set the standard and with that comes great privilege and responsibility.
Now let me turn to the second important partnership I spoke of earlier – this Department’s partnership with you and your communities. Let me be clear: the Justice Department today is committed to partnering with state, local and tribal law enforcement in community policing efforts to help meet challenges for resources needed to sustain and grow this proven strategy, in terms of new cops on the beat, improved technology, and innovative new initiatives. We will listen to you, and we will work with you, to help meet our respective missions and our common goals.
I had the privilege of serving in the Department a decade ago under Attorney General Reno and then-Deputy Attorney General Holder. Under their leadership, this Department helped put 100,000 new officers on the streets through the COPS program. The result was a dramatic drop in crime rates in this country. In fact, a 2002 study by the University of Nebraska demonstrated the direct link between community policing strategies and the drop in crime rates during the 1990s. The community policing model still works and will be a centerpiece of this Department’s anti-crime strategy.
This Administration is eager to again shine a spotlight on community policing, even as we work with each of you to develop and support innovations reflecting today’s realities.
For example, recruiting and hiring officers and deputies motivated by the service mission of policing may require new thinking about how policing services are delivered. It already demands innovative and creative ways to reach those who have lived only in a digital age. With that in mind, under the leadership of Sheriff Doug Gillespie – who is here with us today – the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Protect the City campaign is designed to attract a new generation of police officer. The Las Vegas multimedia strategy reinforces the Department’s fundamental values of accountability, compassion, innovation, and integrity.
As Deputy Attorney General, I look forward to working with all of you and your colleagues on this challenge and the many other challenges confronting law enforcement – and it’s a long list.
There are those around the world who threaten our very way of life; far too many communities continue to be plagued by gangs, drugs, and violence; and the current economic downturn has already meant an upswing of crime in some areas.
In places like Pittsburgh and Binghamton, where indescribable grief follows senseless violence, we are reminded of the dangers that lurk out there and the courage it takes to put on a uniform and go to work every day.
Our ability to enhance public safety has never been greater. Two-way communication, effective leadership, better leveraging of limited resources, and innovative technology, will give us an unmatched ability to share information, collaborate and problem-solve.
I’m proud of the work that is already been done to target Mexican drug cartels, end human trafficking, and crackdown on mortgage scams. And I am pleased to report to you that after years of neglect and inadequate funding, the Justice Department is once again able to support your efforts with much needed resources through the COPS Office, the Office of Justice Programs, and the Office of Violence Against Women. These three offices combined have $4 billion in Recovery Act funds to support state, local and tribal law enforcement efforts. They also have additional funding in their FY09 budgets. With the ultimate aim of protecting the public and preserving the timeless values that make our nation unique, we intend to model partnership and effective problem solving in our work with you; to be a resource to you as you lead your agencies; and to listen to your ideas as we set and adjust our own direction.
We are fortunate to have an Attorney General who reveres the law, loves this honorable institution, and understands the importance of working closely with our law enforcement partners. In Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, we have a leader who brings a wealth of public and private legal experience to help guide the Department’s support for state, local, and tribal law enforcement through his oversight of the Office of Justice Programs, the COPS Office, and the Office of Violence against Women.
It is an honor to serve with them and an honor to be with you today. I look forward to working with all of you to protect our communities.