Thursday, September 24, 2015
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, U.S. Attorney [Annette] Hayes, for those kind words – and for your extraordinary and longstanding service, sacrifice and leadership on behalf of this office and the people of the Western District of Washington. I also want to thank Mayor [Ed] Murray and Chief of Police [Kathleen] O’Toole for their leadership, their dedication and their hospitality in welcoming me to Seattle today. And I’d like to thank everyone who helped organize this important event. It’s a pleasure to join so many distinguished representatives of law enforcement, city government, faith communities, advocacy groups and local schools as we come together to discuss the ongoing efforts here in Seattle and across the United States to protect our citizens, to empower our communities and to strengthen our most fundamental civic bonds.
We have seen, particularly over the last year, the importance of that effort. From Ferguson to Baltimore and from Cleveland to New York City, we have witnessed the pain and the unrest that can ensue when trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve is damaged, broken, or lost. In many cases, these tensions have their roots in a long and difficult history of inequality, oppression and violence and they speak to issues that have tested our country’s unity since its inception. They will not be overcome with easy solutions or simple strategies. Sweeping progress will not occur overnight. But as Seattle’s recent experience can attest, real progress is possible – when we engage with one another, when we summon our goodwill and good faith and when we work collaboratively as partners with a mutual and shared interest in ensuring the safety and security of the communities we call home.
That is exactly the kind of common understanding that the Obama Administration, the Department of Justice and I personally want to help foster – and I am committed to using all of the tools at my disposal to create positive and lasting change. One year ago, the Department of Justice launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice – a comprehensive effort to enhance training, promote research and develop sound policy that will bolster law enforcement credibility, ensure procedural justice, minimize implicit bias and advance racial reconciliation. The Office of Justice Programs, under the direction of Assistant Attorney General [Karol] Mason, is partnering with law enforcement agencies at the state and local level, providing resources like grants, training and technical assistance. Our Civil Rights Division – led by the outstanding Vanita Gupta, who is joining us today – continues its work with police departments around the country to ensure constitutional policing in their jurisdictions, just as it did to great effect here in Seattle, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. And our Office of Community Oriented Policing Service or COPS Office – under its wonderful Director, Ron Davis, who is also here with us today – is helping to ensure that local law enforcement officers have the resources they need to serve their communities fairly, faithfully and effectively.
These efforts are ongoing. Just a few days ago, I was proud to announce that the COPS Office is providing more than $107 million in new grants to support the hiring and retention of approximately 870 officers at roughly 200 agencies and to promote training aimed at expanding community policing and building community trust. I also announced that, through the Body-Worn Camera Pilot Partnership Program administered by our Bureau of Justice Assistance, we will provide more than $19.3 million to 73 local and tribal law enforcement agencies across the country to implement body-worn camera programs designed to enhance accountability and transparency for law enforcement and communities. And finally, I was pleased to announce that our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is supporting a unique partnership between the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice as part of a new initiative to create positive interactions and relationships between young people and the police officers in their communities.
These are all promising endeavors and I am hopeful that they will contribute to the progress we would all like to see. But I also know that real change is spearheaded by those who are grappling with real problems every day – and our goal is to tap into the innovative programs and exciting ideas that are emerging from communities across the country. That’s why I embarked on a multi-city community policing tour to learn about – and bring attention to – some of the innovative programs that are getting results in localities from coast to coast. I’ve already made stops in Birmingham, Alabama; Cincinnati, Ohio; East Haven, Connecticut; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the first phase of the tour will conclude tomorrow in Richmond, California. All of these cities have experienced profoundly challenging police community relationships. But through hard work and collaboration – between civic leaders and public safety officials like the ones here with us today – all of them have made important strides in creating and sustaining meaningful change.
I am here in Seattle today because this city’s leaders – all of you around this table and your partners beyond this room – have demonstrated your commitment to making progress – together – on behalf of your fellow citizens and for the good of this great city. Three years ago, Seattle entered a consent decree with the Justice Department to remedy a pattern or practice of excessive force in policing. Thanks to the consent decree and the commitment to change it represented, the Seattle Police Department has adopted policies and instituted trainings to address bias, curtail the use of force and implement new mechanisms of accountability. Those reforms have not only led to positive results in Seattle, but have become a model for similarly situated departments throughout the country. I am proud of the important steps Seattle already taken and I promise you that the Department of Justice will be there as your partner as we continue this important work.
And so, as we continue this conversation, I want to thank you all again for your partnership, your hard work and your devotion to this vital cause. I am excited to have this opportunity to speak with you today. And I look forward to all that we will achieve in the days and months ahead.