Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning and thank you for that kind introduction.
On behalf of the Justice Department, and Attorney General Barr, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to participate in this event. The presentations and exchange of ideas set to take place over the next two days are of the highest importance. Hopefully they will help you develop new tools and tactics — and empower you to continue protecting the safety and well-being of your communities.
During recent years, our nation has been rocked by atrocious acts of senseless violence that have targeted our school children, our police officers, our workplaces, and our houses of worship. In the wake of these tragedies, America’s law enforcement community did what it always does: it stepped up.
Working collaboratively, federal, state and local law enforcement have been able to identify and neutralize many potential threats before innocent lives are lost. However, with officers facing a new, unique, and growing danger, not every act of violence can be stopped.
Today’s threats are different from the carefully planned terrorist attacks we have worked to thwart in the wake of 9/11. Violent individuals can appear abruptly, and are often driven by mental illness, or even substance abuse, making their actions especially unpredictable.
For this reason, it is so critically important that we take the expertise we’ve gained over the last twenty years fighting violent crime and terrorism and fuse it with an “all-tools” approach. This supplemental paradigm includes partnering with threat assessment professionals, clinical psychologists, and community leaders.
With your help, we can take all lawful measures to intervene when someone is mobilizing towards violence. This approach allows us to be proactive rather than reactive. We can do whatever is possible to disrupt and engage mass shootings, rather than responding after the fact.
Across the United States, components of the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners have been developing and field-testing strategies to shield the American people from these dangerous individuals.
In Connecticut, the FBI worked with local law enforcement to follow up on a tip that someone was attempting to illegally transport high capacity magazines into the state. After investigating, authorities found that the individual had allegedly posted on social media about committing a mass shooting and arrested him in August on firearms charges.
Around the same time, a man in Florida sent his ex-girlfriend a stream of shocking text messages in which he allegedly discussed opening fire at a school with the goal of killing at least 100 innocent people. The ex-girlfriend contacted the authorities, who arrested the man, recovering a rifle and a stockpile of ammunition at his apartment.
In Fort Worth, Texas, a specially-trained crisis intervention team was able to prevent an unstable young man from buying a gun on the street after failing a background check. Police had been warned by the man’s father that the 27-year-old might be planning a mass shooting. Officers were able to avert the attack, and get the man the mental health care he needed.
In each case, the public saw the red flags, and our law enforcement professionals were able to handle the situation. But we can’t leave responding to tips up to chance, nor can we rely on tips alone. That’s why Attorney General Barr called for the implementation of national disruption and early engagement programs to counter the threat of mass shootings.
During this symposium, you will hear from law enforcement professionals and experts from places such as Brooklyn, Denver, San Diego, and Hawaii about how they are using the most cutting-edge techniques to assess threats and how they work with a variety of different partners to mitigate and disrupt those threats. It is these types of creative approaches to combating violent crime that we as a Department want to encourage.
And, that’s why events like this one are so important. Take this training conference as an invitation to be bold — to be innovative. Americans are looking to you, as they always do, to get out ahead of this problem, and to keep them safe. I have great faith in the people in this room and I look forward to hearing about your successes in the weeks and months ahead.
Thank you again for your time and for everything you do.