Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good afternoon. Thank you Ron [Davis] for that kind introduction and for your excellent leadership of the Community Oriented Policing Services.
It is such a privilege for me to welcome you all to the Justice Department for the first Attorney General Awards for Community Policing and to congratulate our award recipients. You all represent the best in America’s law enforcement, with courage, determination, intelligence and a willingness to take on the toughest issues and to do things the right way. You have demonstrated a daily recognition of the role of law enforcement as protectors of our communities, and you have gone the extra mile to ensure that you are part of the communities you protect.
I’ve been a prosecutor for 30 years and I’ve had the honor to work alongside law enforcement officers for my entire professional career. While prosecutors and law enforcement officers share the same goals – to keep our fellow citizens safe and to ensure that justice is done in every case – you are the ones who risk your lives on a daily basis. And we don’t say thank you enough. I want to make sure that all of you know how grateful we are for your service and your sacrifice.
There’s no question that you have enormously challenging jobs. And these are particularly difficult and painful times. That is why the work that you are doing, building trust with the communities we serve, it is so vitally important. Because we all know that our entire criminal justice system is built on the trust of the citizens we serve and if that trust crumbles, if the public doesn’t believe that the system operates fairly and equally for all, the whole system falls apart. That’s why we are so pleased to have the opportunity to recognize you all here today. The manner in which you go about doing your job demonstrates your recognition that everyone in this country should not only respect the law, but should also be respected by the law.
Over the last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Denver and Atlanta to take part in Justice Forums. In both cities, I heard from law enforcement, community leaders, civil rights advocates and faith groups – and participated in honest, sometimes difficult, but very meaningful conversations between citizens and those sworn to protect them. During these meetings we examined police-community issues and talked openly about the underlying tensions. While these dialogues are not in and of themselves the solution to the challenges we are facing, they are an important step. And the groups came up with ideas for ways to build stronger ties between law enforcement and the community by combating implicit bias; improving officer training; and increasing community engagement opportunities.
This work of fostering trust and mutual respect will make our streets safer and our communities stronger, more united and inclusive. But of course, you understand the value of community policing perhaps better than anyone. That’s why you’re here. Because of your dedication to professional, impartial and effective policing, you have helped to transform your agencies and build a brighter future for your community. When faced with challenges and risks, you’ve responded with patience and uncommon grace. At every turn, you have demonstrated decency, integrity and a deep sense to duty.
As you carry on this and other critical efforts, know that the Justice Department will do whatever we can to protect you and empower you. And I hope that when you return home, you will take the time to share your wisdom with those around you – so that newer officers and deputies have the chance to learn from you, the very best of law enforcement.
Once again, thank you for all that you do each and every day.
Now it is my privilege to introduce a champion of this work – an individual who from day one made improving the relationship between law enforcement and our communities a top priority of the Justice Department. Please join me in welcoming to the stage Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.