Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Phil, for that kind introduction. I appreciate your superb work as the Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The front-line perspective that you bring based on more than three decades in law enforcement enhances our ability to provide appropriate support to all police officers.
I also want to thank Rhea Walker for her superb rendition of the National Anthem. Rhea, you add a very special and personal touch to every event that you grace with your beautiful voice.
Welcome to the Department of Justice for this celebration honoring recipients of the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing. I particularly appreciate the proud family members and friends present today.
These awards reflect not only the superb work of the recipients and their colleagues. Their outstanding achievements also entail sacrifices by families and friends.
When I first took the oath of office as a prosecutor in 1990, I planned to spend just a few years in government. The mission attracted me, but the people who carry out the mission are what I treasure most about my job. It is an honor to work with men and women like you, helping to fight crime and keep America safe.
There is a story about two police officers who pull over a car for a traffic stop. One officer walks to the driver’s side while his partner stands behind the car. As the first officer approaches, the driver rolls down the window and leans out, shaking his fist. “Do you know who I am? Do you know who I am!?” The second officer hears the ruckus and calls out, “Is there a problem here?” And the first officer replies, “Yes, this fellow doesn’t know who he is.”
Law enforcement officers can never forget who they are. After you take the oath, you are the job. You always represent your department, even when you are not in uniform.
Some people fear the police, and we understand why. Police officers do not stop motorists to congratulate them for obeying traffic laws, and nobody calls 911 to report that everything is OK.
But when danger lurks or tragedy strikes, people hope to find a police officer nearby. That is why polls show that public confidence in police remains high.
Modern police agencies adopt professional standards. They respect constitutional protections. They follow detailed policies and procedures. They hold officers accountable for misconduct.
Unfortunately, some critics take for granted the extraordinary men and women who work in law enforcement. They do not understand the challenges you face.
Police officers never know what dangers the next call will bring. The work can be stressful, demanding, and frightening for officers and their families.
You work day shifts and night shifts, on weekends and holidays, in blizzards and rainstorms, during parades and riots. Your offices never close. And you always need to be at your best, especially when other people are at their worst.
Here at the Department of Justice, we understand your work. We appreciate your work. And most importantly, we support your work. You are the guardians of the rule of law.
As John Adams wrote, our nation chose to be “a government of laws and not of men.” The great American experiment is based on the proposition that the people can be trusted to govern themselves.
Alexander Hamilton described the challenge. He wrote that “it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country … to decide … whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”
The rule of law represents government by “reflection and choice.”
That principle is reflected in the Constitutional commitment that promises all Americans equal protection under the law.
But rights are of limited value if it is not safe to leave your home and walk the streets of your own neighborhood.
President Trump recognizes that protecting public safety is a primary duty of government. His first executive orders included specific instructions to reduce violent crime and protect law enforcement officers.
Under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice follows through on that commitment.
This Department of Justice building is filled with works of art that commemorate important events and celebrate significant historical figures, heroic leaders who contributed to the development of the rule of law.
One of my favorites is the mural outside the Attorney General’s private office. It depicts a police officer arresting a criminal suspect.
Nobody knows who the officer is. It could be any one of you. It represents all of you.
The Attorney General sees that police officer every day as he enters his office. Then he passes through a rotunda that bears this inscription: “The [Government] wins its point whenever justice is done ….”
You will not find a stronger advocate for law and justice than Jeff Sessions. He devoted most of his career to public service. He first worked on the front lines as a federal prosecutor in 1975. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed him United States for Southern Alabama, where he served for twelve years. During that time, he also served in the United States Army Reserve, rising to the rank of Captain.
In 1994, Jeff Sessions won election as Attorney General for Alabama. And in 1996 he was elected to the United States Senate, where he served with great distinction for two decades.
Please welcome a great patriot and an unrelenting supporter of law enforcement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.