Remarks by U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain at the Allentown Police Academy Graduation
PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain was honored to speak last week at the Allentown Police Academy Graduation of the 102nd Police Training Class in Allentown, Pennsylvania. U.S. Attorney McSwain’s remarks are below.
Thank you very much to Mayor Ray O’Connell, Chief of Police Tony Alsleben, Assistant Chief Stephen Vangelo, and the entire Allentown Police Academy for inviting me to speak here today. It is truly an honor to be here with you today on this very special occasion.
First and foremost, to the 102nd Police Training Class – congratulations on a job well done! You have spent the past six months working incredibly hard, day in and day out, to achieve your dreams, all with the goal of getting to this moment. There are not many days in your life that you know for certain you will remember for decades to come. But this is one of those days. Do not let the moment pass you by. Look around, at your classmates, at your future colleagues, and most importantly, at your families, and acknowledge to yourself what you have achieved to be sitting where you are today. Everyone here is incredibly proud of you, and you deserve another round of applause.
Throughout my life, I have always been interested in how others define their core values. In the program for today’s ceremony, the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics is printed. The first line reads, “As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community.” In my mind, a life of service is the most honorable and noble pursuit one can follow. As the Code details, you will safeguard the lives of others on a daily basis. You will protect the innocent and the vulnerable. You will follow and uphold the United States Constitution at all times, not only when it is convenient, but also when it might be most inconvenient.
It is by living the core values of law enforcement that has allowed the U.S. Attorney’s Office and police departments throughout the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, including Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, to achieve great success in the pursuit of justice and keeping our community safe. On the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks last week, I was humbled to stand in the Great Hall in the Justice Department headquarters in Washington D.C. to hear Attorney General Sessions give his remarks about the day that this country was changed forever. He recalled that first responders performed one of the most heroic rescue missions in our country’s history. The Attorney General noted that since September 11, 2001, the Department of Justice has secured the convictions of over 580 defendants for terrorism or terrorism-related charges, and he reiterated that the FBI has on-going terrorism investigations in all 50 states.
But the FBI is not pursuing these investigations in a silo. One of the most important lessons from that horrific day 17 years ago is that federal, state, and local authorities must have cross-jurisdictional partnerships to ensure that there is a continuous flow of intelligence and information to assist national security and public safety field operations. There are no separations or boundaries between federal, state and local law enforcement. We all work together to ensure the continued safety of this great nation. We can only succeed with the collaboration and partnership of each of you.
These partnerships cannot be built in a day. We all need to work together when times are good so that we know exactly what to do and who to call in times of crisis. To this end, one of my first initiatives when I began serving as U.S. Attorney was to visit all nine counties that make up the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and meet with the district attorneys and local law enforcement leaders in each of them. It is a priority of my Office to continue to foster these relationships and always keep our lines of communication open. These connections are crucial to keeping the community safe.
And this collaboration has already produced results. For example, together, we continue to fight the war against the opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the creation of the Opioid Law Enforcement Task Force, comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement partners. The Task Force is responsible for developing, implementing, and coordinating a robust prosecution response to this national health emergency, and the Task Force could not be successful without your partnership.
Together, we also continue to fight violent crime and drug trafficking on a daily basis. The Department of Justice has recently reinvigorated the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, which has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. To that end, my Office has brought many cases this year combatting violent crime and drug organizations, with the help of area police departments like yours. For example, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly Fallenstein and Sherri Stephan are currently prosecuting a drug organization led by Defendant Jose Sanchez-Delgado. This organization used the U.S. Mail to bring heroin and cocaine from Puerto Rico to Allentown for distribution here. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Allentown Police Department are working this case together, with
Officer Evan Weaver and Detective Randy Fey playing a leading role as FBI Task Force Officers. A total of ten defendants were indicted and charged with distributing up to 25 kilograms of cocaine. Six of these defendants have pled guilty and the rest are working their way through the criminal justice system.
Another great example of working together is Allentown Police Detective Damian Murray, who also serves as a DEA Task Force Officer, and was named the DEA Task Force Officer of the Year for the entire Eastern District of Pennsylvania. But that is nothing new for this Department. Two years ago, in 2016, Allentown Police Sergeant Christopher Diehl was also named the DEA Task Force Officer of the Year.
I could go on and on about our successful pursuits together. It is by living by our cores values and the code of ethics that we will pursue challenging investigations, succeed in stopping crimes, and hold the responsible parties accountable. And I know that each of you will have many successes. But that does not mean that this will always be an easy road.
Indeed, it is harder today than perhaps in any time in American history to be serving in law enforcement. It has become somewhat popular in certain segments of the population to come out against the police and law enforcement. And even when a police department has an honest and open dialogue with the community about this criticism, each and every one of you will live your life under a microscope. Moreover, not only are the police under scrutiny like never before, the tools of that heightened scrutiny are ever-present. Everything that you do and everything that you say can be posted on Facebook, tweeted, and made into a national news story in a matter of seconds.
You need to be aware of this constant drumbeat of attention. But I encourage you not to shy away from it. Instead, embrace it. Because when the media and the citizens of our community actually get the opportunity to look more closely, they get to see dedicated, hard-working police officers who are keeping our communities safe every single day.
The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics notes the challenges ahead. It states that you will keep your private life unsullied “as an example to all,” and that you will “maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule.” Make no mistake – this is placing a higher standard on you than the average citizen, even when you are off-duty. The Code of Ethics notes that you “alone” are responsible for your own standard of professional performance. That being said, I want you to look around this room at your fellow graduates. You will have greater success if you help one another in being the best officers that this community expects and deserves. You are responsible for your own conduct, but you have each other to lean on and help guide one another to become the best law enforcement officers possible.
Graduates, if you remember one thing that I say today, I want you to remember this: I want you to remember the words thank you. Thank you for your future partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in pursuing justice. Thank you for your future leadership in the community and for keeping all of us safe. Thank you for the sacrifices that you will make on a daily basis because of the work that you do. I know that the hours are long, the danger is real, and the salary will never match what you deserve and what you could earn in the private sector. But we do not serve for the pay or the glory. We serve because there is no greater purpose in this life than to serve others.
But our graduates today are not the only ones in this room who serve. To all of the family members here today supporting a police graduate – can you please stand up? I want all of the husbands and wives, children, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, grandparents – and also the close friends – to please stand up. I want to thank you for your service. These graduating men and women would never have gotten here today without you. Their long hours will be your long hours. The nights and weekends, the holidays, the sacrifices that they make will be your sacrifices, as well. And I know that you will think about the dangers that they face on a daily basis, perhaps sometimes even more than they do. You serve on a daily basis. Please know that I and every other member of this community are humbled by and grateful for your sacrifice and your service to this community and this country. Thank you for everything that you do.
In conclusion, I say to everyone here – on your longest, hardest, most challenging days, do not give up. You are on a righteous path. Remember that the U.S. Attorney’s Office stands beside you; we could not do our work without you. We see your service and we know your sacrifice. Remain determined in your pursuit of justice and hold your head high.
Thank you, congratulations, and God Bless you all.