~ Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Thank you, Zach [Terwilliger], for that introduction. Welcome to the inaugural National Summit on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. On February 9th, President Trump signed an Executive Order establishing the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. At the Department of Justice, we began to discuss the best ways for federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement to exchange strategies and best practices.
This summit resulted from that deliberation. ATF, DEA, FBI, USMS, met this morning with some of our police chiefs. Over the next two days, our federal law enforcement representatives want to learn from the successful examples of our crime-fighting partners. We also want to discuss how best we can support your efforts. Thank you for agreeing to help us work with you to improve public safety for all Americans.
Last Tuesday, my 15 year old daughter was scheduled to give a presentation about North Korea to her 9th grade government class. She focused on the case of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia college student who allegedly took a poster off a hotel wall and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. As my daughter was giving her speech, one of her classmates checked his cell phone – they aren’t supposed to do that, but sometimes kids break the rules -- and they learned that Otto had returned home.
But it turned out that Otto did not really make it home. Hard labor in North Korea means torture. They sent him home after 18 months with brain damage. And yesterday brought tragic news about Otto’s death. North Korea will not hold anyone accountable for Otto’s death. It is a totalitarian government with no concept of the rule of law. No civil rights. No due process. No justice.
My daughter could not believe that a place as evil as North Korea exists. We are privileged to live under a Constitution that is based on the rule of law. The rule of law is not just a feature of America. It is the operating system of America. Sometimes people get so caught up complaining about the imperfections in our own system that they fail to appreciate how fortunate we are. But my daughter will not forget. She and her classmates are grateful to live in a country filled with law enforcement officers who obey the rules and protect us from harm. People who run toward gunfire so the rest of us can get away safely. People like you.
With us today are representatives from 5 tribal law enforcement agencies, 7 state law enforcement agencies, and nearly 100 local law enforcement agencies. All together, we have representatives from 37 different states. We are also fortunate to have representatives from 32 victims groups, 25 law enforcement organizations, and 12 professors, each representing a different university. We are grateful that you have chosen to join us for this important event to develop plans to save American lives
This Summit offers the Department of Justice the opportunity to hear from you about your successful strategies for tackling the devastating problem of violent crime. And who better to ask for advice than the courageous men and women in this room? Our state, local, and tribal partners put your lives on the line every day to prevent crimes from occurring. You respect constitutional rights. You show compassion for victims. You demonstrate fairness and impartiality towards suspects. Your selfless service is awe-inspiring.
When citizens back home in your communities think about law enforcement, they don’t picture federal agents. They picture the men and women in this room. They see people like Deputy Jennifer Fulford of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. In 2004, armed robbers forced their way into a woman’s house, holding her and her three children hostage. Deputy Fulford snuck into the garage to save the children, but two armed suspects fired a hail of bullets at her. Despite being wounded multiple times, Deputy Fulford courageously returned fire, disabled the suspects, and saved the children.
When people think about law enforcement, they also picture Officer Dylan Smith of the Dallas Police Department. He used his body as a human shield to protect an innocent civilian as they took cover from a gunman in Dallas last July. The gunman took the lives of five police officers that day. Robert Moore, the civilian protected by Officer Smith, will never forget that the police were there to help.
The Attorney General and I understand that every time you pull a vehicle over, execute a search warrant, or step out in your uniform, you face a potentially fatal situation. It gives us the utmost respect for the work you do.
I also appreciate the victim-witness advocates who have gathered with us here today. After the threat is resolved, you begin the hard work of caring for and giving voice to those in need. If the law enforcement officers are the “protectors,” you are the “restorers.” You help rebuild the lives of people harmed by violent crime.
Throughout my 27 years as a prosecutor, I saw firsthand the effects that violent crime can have on a community. I know how important your work is and how much of a difference you make in the lives of victims and their families. You are often unsung heroes who give survivors the strength to soldier on, and the tools and resources to regain their confidence and sense of security.
I also appreciate the professors and academics who are here with us today. You have devoted your expertise to study the effectiveness of policing models and methods. And you work to train students to become the next generation of law enforcement leaders.
All of this brings me to the question, “Why are we here”? Why do you risk your lives to keep us safe? Why do you work tirelessly to restore victims of violent crime? Why do you devote your career to training the next generation of leaders?
I know the answer. It is your dedication to protect our freedoms; your commitment to protect our way of life. You do not have a mere job. It is a mission and a calling.
Each of you believes that everyone in this country should be able to walk down the street without fear of being robbed, raped, or killed. You believe that parents should be able to send their children to school without worrying that they will be targeted to join a gang or take drugs. You believe that we should be able to live in our neighborhoods without fear of violence. You believe in these ideals—our American ideals—and that is why you are here.
As you participate in the breakout sessions, allow these ideals to guide you. Rest assured that they are guiding the Department and its mission. Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes deeply in these ideals. That is why, pursuant to the President’s call to action, he created the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. That is why he convened you all here today.
You will not find a stronger advocate for law enforcement than the Attorney General. He has had your back for decades. Now, more than ever, he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with you in the fight against drugs and violent crime. Attorney General Sessions has been a dedicated public servant for his entire career. He first served on the front lines as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, where he served for twelve years. During that time, he also served honorably in the United States Army Reserve, rising to the rank of Captain.
In 1994, he was elected Attorney General of Alabama. And in 1996 he was elected to the United States Senate, where he served with distinction for 20 years. He sat on the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Environment and Public Works, and the Committee on the Judiciary.
Most important of all, he has been, and continues to be, your strongest advocate.
Join me in welcoming a great patriot and an unrelenting supporter of law enforcement, the Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions.