~ Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, President [Wayne] Frederick, for that warm introduction and for welcoming me to Howard University this afternoon. Thank you, Dr. [Elsie] Scott, for helping to organize today’s event. I also want to recognize my colleague Ron Davis, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS Office, for his tireless work to build stronger relationships between law enforcement officers and the people we serve. His team in the COPS Office have worked extremely hard to make National Community Policing Week a success and I want to thank them for their efforts planning this and so many other events throughout the week. And of course, I want to thank the many law enforcement officers, community leaders and students for bringing your ideas, your perspectives and your commitment to this vital gathering.
As you know, the COPS Office and Howard are hosting this meeting as part of National Community Policing Week. Since Monday, the Department of Justice and our partners have been hosting events nationwide designed to encourage conversation, foster dialogue and help police officers and citizens set aside stereotypes and find common ground. That’s what each of you is doing here today. Director Davis and Dr. Scott have told me about the work that you’ve done so far and it sounds like you have had a truly productive meeting – discussing everything from how young adults perceive law enforcement, to the role that young people can play in building the law enforcement agencies of the 21st century. Obviously, it will take more than one day to address all of the issues before us, but conversations like this one are a crucial start. I hope that by taking the time to listen to one another in a supportive setting, each of you – officers and students alike – have deepened your understanding of and your respect for one another and I want to commend you once again for your participation.
I know that it is especially difficult to have these conversations in light of recent events. This summer, we were all shaken by tragic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, which were then followed so closely by the appalling murders of five police officers in Dallas, Texas and three other officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And of course, we have endured additional pain in recent weeks, as we added the names of Terrence Crutcher, Keith Scott and Alfred Olango to the sobering list of those who have died in officer-involved incidents – a list that brings pain not just to individual communities, but to our entire nation. These events have left all of us with feelings of helplessness, uncertainty and fear. But I strongly believe that we cannot let those feelings divide us. I strongly believe that we must acknowledge our shared pain and rededicate ourselves to repairing the fabric of our society. And if we can muster the strength to come together, I strongly believe that we can emerge from these trying times stronger and more united than ever.
I believe in our ability to move forward because I have seen it happen. Earlier this week, I was in Dallas, a city that has been in a lot of pain since they lost five officers in July. But Dallas is a city that has also been at the forefront of community policing for a long time and they weren’t about to let tragedy undo all of their hard work. After that devastating incident, the chief of police there issued a statement inviting people to apply to his force, to come serve their communities and to “be a part of the solution.” That is exactly what happened; applications to the Dallas Police Department tripled in the wake of those terrible shootings. What a tremendous response to an unthinkable event. And what a challenge for the rest of us, a call to ask ourselves how we can be part of the solution in our own communities.
I am proud to say that at the Department of Justice, we are committed to being a part of the solution in a number of ways. Our COPS Office has joined with the Walters Center here at Howard to engage more millennials – especially young people of color – in law enforcement. Our Civil Rights Division is working with a number of departments around the country to implement constitutional policing practices and ensure that every citizen’s basic rights are protected. In times of tension and conflict, members of our Community Relations Service serve as on-the-ground mediators, helping to forge peaceful and productive resolutions. And through our Office of Justice Programs, we’re promoting and implementing the latest evidence-based strategies for community policing.
Earlier today, as part of these efforts, I was proud to announce more than $3 million in grants to prevent gender bias in law enforcement’s response to sexual assault and domestic violence. These awards will help officers serve the survivors of these awful crimes with sensitivity and respect, leading to deeper trust and to more effective investigations. Also this morning, the Civil Rights Division released a report on promoting diversity in law enforcement. The report includes innovative and promising practices for recruiting, hiring and retaining a diverse workforce – which, as you have discussed today, is a key to building strong bonds of trust between police and the communities they serve – especially communities of color.
These are just a few of the ways that we are working to help build stronger, safer and more united communities. I truly believe that this is one of the defining endeavors of our time, which is why I have made it such a personal priority. And it is why I want to thank each of you for being here today. By taking the time to listen, to learn and to share, you are doing the hard work of closing rifts and healing divides. Rather than shrugging your shoulders or turning a blind eye to the work at hand, you are choosing to bend your shoulders to the wheel. And because of your efforts – because of your commitment – we are making progress. It is happening today – right here in this room – because of you. And so I want to thank you for your dedication to this vital effort. I want you to know that you will continue to have a staunch ally in the Department of Justice. And I look forward to all that we will achieve together in the days to come. Thank you.