Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good afternoon, Chairman Cruz, Ranking Member Coons, and distinguished Members of the Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the many ways in which the Department of Justice is providing valuable support and resources to the nation’s 800,000 law enforcement officers in the more than 16,000 local, state and tribal police agencies and sheriff’s offices across the country.
I come to you today not just as the Director of the Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services – also known as COPS – but as one who has spent close to 30 years as a local police officer. I served 20 years in the Oakland Police Department rising to the rank of Captain, and close to nine years as police chief for the city of East Palo Alto, California. For me, the decision to become a cop was an easy one – I simply followed my father’s footsteps, who served 25 years in the Philadelphia Police Department.
I can tell you as a 30-year, second-generation cop, there is no greater or more noble profession than policing. And, I can also tell you without hesitation that the men and women who answer this calling are truly America’s finest. So, you can imagine the great satisfaction it brings me to lead the COPS Office and work for the Justice Department – an agency that provides tremendous support to local, state and tribal law enforcement.
For example, since 2009, COPS has awarded over $2 billion in hiring grants to create and preserve more than 10,000 police officer and deputy positions in nearly 2,600 law enforcement agencies. For some agencies, providing funding for just one officer may mean the difference in having a full shift and making sure officers have sufficient cover and safety.
COPS also supports the development of effective crime-fighting initiatives. As a police chief I implemented several of these initiatives which contributed to dramatic reductions in murders in my city - a city that was once dubbed the murder capital of the United States.
Over the past 20 years, the COPS Office has provided training to over 700,000 officers and deputies, and supports valuable research releasing publications on a wide range of issues from homeland security to reducing gang violence to building community trust and enhancing officer safety and wellness. These publications are critical to the field because most agencies have fewer than 50 officers and do not have the capacity to conduct this research on their own.
Just last month COPS released two valuable research reports – one addressing ambush attacks against police, and another presenting models for protecting the physical and psychological health of officers. These reports will help officer safety and save lives.
Through our executive sessions, COPS brings together the best and brightest minds in the field to tackle issues such as crime and violence, preventing violent extremism, handling mass casualty events, use of force and officer safety. The information gleaned from these sessions is distributed to the field.
Another way we help the field is through the COPS Collaborative Reform Initiative. At a law enforcement agency’s request, COPS examines key operational areas within the agency – such as training, internal investigations, use of force, and racial profiling – and provides recommendations that will enhance community trust and public safety. COPS then works closely with the agency in implementing these recommendations.
The Las Vegas police department was the first to complete this process and Collaborative Reform efforts are now underway in Spokane, Philadelphia, St. Louis County, Salinas, Calexico, and Fayetteville, with the latest request coming from the Milwaukee police chief.
This voluntary process has received support from the Civil Rights Division and my esteemed colleague, Vanita Gupta. It is considered in some cases as a viable option, when appropriate, over a pattern and practice investigation.
Through our Catalyst grants, COPS works with and supports the major law enforcement organizations in addressing key challenges facing law enforcement such as the use of force, animal cruelty, leadership development and mentoring, and officer safety and wellness.
The COPS Office also funds a Critical Response for Technical Assistance program that offers immediate, real-time assistance to agencies dealing with major public safety incidents.
For example, within days of the start of mass demonstrations in Ferguson, COPS was able to connect regional police leaders with police executives with experience dealing with similar issues. We have provided support to nearly a dozen agencies at their request. And, as with all COPS projects, the lessons learned from these cities are shared with the over 16,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.
This year, the COPS Office provided administrative support to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing – a task force comprised of law enforcement and community leaders – which issued 59 recommendations to help agencies and communities build trust and advance public safety.
While policing is primarily a local issue, the federal government has a critical role to play in helping our local law enforcement agencies respond to the challenges of policing in the 21st century. Under the leadership of President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Department of Justice has made supporting local law enforcement one of the Administration's top priorities.
As a career police officer, I know firsthand just how important this support is, and I can say without hesitation that the men and women of the Department of Justice make this a priority every day.
Thank you and I look forward to your questions.