Attorney General Sessions Delivers remarks at the U.S. Department of Justice National Public Safety Partnership Symposium

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Matt for that kind introduction and thank you for your leadership at OJP.  Thank you also for your service as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa.  Your colleague Matt Whitaker is now my chief of staff and, perhaps more importantly, a former tight end who helped take the Hawkeyes to the Rose Bowl.

It is good to be home.  And I’m especially happy to be with so many of Alabama’s law enforcement leaders:

  • Attorney General Steve Marshall
  • All three of our U.S. Attorneys: Jay Town, Louis Franklin, and Richard Moore
  • U.S. Marshal Marty Keely
  • Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith
  • Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale
  • Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis.

This is a distinguished crowd.  We’ve also got law enforcement leaders here from across the nation:

  • Head of ATF, Tom Brandon
  • Director of our COPS Office, Phil Keith
  • Jon Adler, Director of BJA
  • Darlene Hutchinson, Director of OVC and proud Alabamian
  • Paul Abbate of FBI
  • Associate Director of Operations Derrick Driscoll of the Marshals Service
  • Southern Indiana U.S. Marshal Dan McClain, and
  • Deputy Chief of Operations Paul Knierim of DEA.

Of course I also want to thank the leaders of the PSP program who made today possible: Co-Directors Kristie Brackens and Theodore Miller.

There are many more law enforcement leaders here today.  The people in this room represent some of the finest law enforcement agencies anywhere in the world and I am proud to be here with you.

We have with us today United States Attorneys, Police Chiefs, and Prosecutors from the 21 PSP cities. 

That includes U.S. Attorneys Benjamin Glassman, Josh Minkler, Andrew Birge, Donald Cochran, Justin Herdman, Brandon Fremin, and Trent Shores.  Thank you all for being here and thank you for your leadership as United States Attorneys.

On behalf of President Donald Trump I want to thank everyone here for your efforts to maintain law and order in America.  Make no mistake about it: President Trump is a law and order president.

President Trump took office with a mission, a mandate from the American people to restore public safety. 

Big mistakes were made, some saw police as the problem. And as a result, in the last two years of the previous administration, the violent crime rate went up by nearly seven percent.  Assaults went up nearly 10 percent.  Rape went up by nearly 11 percent.  Murder shot up by more than 20 percent.  That’s what was happening when he took office.

This was especially shocking because from 1991 to 2014, violent crime had dropped by half.  Murder dropped by half.  So did aggravated assault.  Rape decreased by more than a third, and robbery plummeted by nearly two-thirds.

From the beginning I have said, and let me say this loud and clear again: we will not let that progress slip away.  We are determined, resolutely to get back to reducing crime rates.

The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, the President sent me three Executive Orders that have guided the work of this Department ever since. We embrace the orders.  First, he ordered me to enhance officer safety and to “back the blue.”  Second, he ordered me to dismantle the transnational criminal organizations and the cartels that are responsible for so much of the violent crime in this country.  And third, he ordered me to reduce crime in America—not to preside over ever-increasing levels of crime.  Some people think that crime levels are like the tides—going up and down and there’s nothing you can do about it.  But not this President, and not this Attorney General.  He believes that law enforcement can bring down crime rates—and he’s right.

PSP is one way the Department is helping you do that.

When I took office, it had already been tried on an experimental basis in a few cities.  As the results came in, it became clear to me that PSP is effective. And that effectively supports the centerpiece of the departments violent crime reduction efforts, the successful Project Safe Neighborhoods Program.

For instance, in Compton—outside of Los Angeles—PSP helped local police develop a five-year plan to reduce gang violence.  Over the three year trial period, this led to 1,124 felony arrests, 445 seized firearms, 80 pounds of seized explosives, 88 pounds of seized cocaine, 13 pounds of seized heroin, and 18 pounds of seized fentanyl—potentially enough to kill thousands of people.

In Milwaukee, PSP helped local police identify a violent crime hot spot and then reallocate resources there.  Homicides are down by 17 percent in the hotspot and non-fatal shootings are down 38 percent.  City-wide, police reduced non-fatal shootings by 16 percent.

In Little Rock, PSP helped local police hire additional crime analysts, improve access to data, and trace the connections between crimes.  As of July, homicides had decreased by 22 percent.  Aggravated assaults were also down 16 percent and violent crime overall was down by a quarter.

These are very significant results.

The evidence was clear to me—and so I decided that PSP was a worthy investment for this Department. 

PSP helps us carry out the President’s orders because it supports our state and local partners—and that helps reduce violent crime.  That’s a win-win.

PSP makes us a force-multiplier for you because it brings together the expertise of our federal agents with the manpower of the 85 percent of law officers in this country who serve at the state and local levels.  It takes our resources and provides them to the officers with the street-level intelligence that can lead to national and even international cases.

Last summer, we started with 12 cities.

We sent our diagnostic teams to find out where violent crime is rising—and why it is rising.  Our diagnostic teams are working in Baton Rouge, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Houston, Lansing, Kansas City, Jackson, Tennessee and Springfield, Illinois.

We want to help you find the most violent criminals—and put them behind bars.

In New York City, police call them the Alpha Criminals.  These are often gang leaders and criminals who recruit others to join their criminal activity.  New York’s success shows clearly that if you take these people off of the streets, it stops them from committing more crimes and it stops them from recruiting others to a life of crime.

But we are not just diagnosing the problem.  We are also helping to solve it.

Our operations teams are on the ground in Memphis, Toledo, Indianapolis, and just down the road here in Birmingham.

And PSP is already delivering successes for your cities.

In Indianapolis, Josh Minkler assigned an AUSA to each patrol district to focus on drug and gun crime cases.  ATF has also placed one agent in each district, and assigned a crime analyst to focus solely on NIBIN cases.  As of July, Indianapolis reported that their homicide clearance rate went from 40 percent last year to 70 percent so far this year.  We’re bringing more murderers to justice.

In Memphis, police identified a crime hot spot where nearly a quarter of the city’s homicides had occurred in 2016.  Thanks to PSP, homicides are down by 27 percent in that precinct and business robberies are down 26 percent.

In Toledo, the ATF has helped local police use NIBIN to find connections between shooting incidents.  After nine months, we had prosecuted 150 percent more firearm defendants in Toledo than over the same period in 2017.

And right here in Birmingham, during a recent operation, ATF arrested more than 20 violent gang members charged with more than 800 crimes, averaging three felonies each.  Officers seized more than 70 firearms as part of this operation.  Jay is working with local prosecutors to determine the most appropriate jurisdiction in which to prosecute each of these criminals.

There are a lot more successes we could talk about. 

And I’m confident that there are a lot more successes ahead.

Last month I announced that we will be expanding PSP—sending diagnostic teams to Saginaw and Salisbury and sending our operations teams to Kansas City, Miami, and Tulsa.  Congratulations to each one of those cities—and thank you for making a commitment to reduce violent crime.  I’m pleased to see that they are well-represented here today.  Congratulations to Chief Robert Ruth of Saginaw, Chief Jerry Stokes of Salisbury, Deputy Chief David Bosworth of Kansas City, Deputy Chief Ronald Papier of Miami, and Major Luther Breashears of Tulsa.

I am confident that each one of your cities will see the kind of improvements that we have seen in places like Indianapolis, Memphis, and right here in Birmingham.

We are going to keep supporting PSP—because PSP is supporting you financially and morally.

Today I am announcing the next steps in our support for your officers. 

The Department will provide funding for ballistic technology and improved investigative practices through Crime Gun Intelligence Centers in the following cities:

  • $798,000 for Indianapolis
  • $714,000 for Memphis
  • $634,000 for Baton Rouge, and
  • $800,000 for Tulsa.

We are also providing funding for technology improvements for the collection, storage, sharing and analysis of criminal justice data.  This includes:

  • $500,000 for Houston
  • $417,000 for Memphis, and
  • $492,000 for Toledo.

And while I am here in Birmingham, I want to mention another initiative to provide federal expertise to local law enforcement.

Since 2013, 650 school resource officers have been trained through our partnership with the National Association of School Resource Officers, or NASRO, which is based right here in Hoover.  We have also provided funding to NASRO to expand and update their existing curriculum.

Today I am announcing that the Department will provide $200,000 to NASRO, and that they will use this funding to train school resource officers all across America.  We are currently in the process of developing an on-line training program with NASRO to increase the reach of training efforts.  Today’s grant will result in training of approximately 230 school resource officers.

That will help us follow through on President Trump’s promise to make America’s schools safer.

Our efforts are having an impact.

I believe that the Trump administration’s policies are good for law enforcement in your cities and good for the communities that we serve.

In 2017, the Department of Justice brought cases against the greatest number of violent criminals in a quarter of a century—the most since we started keeping track.  It may even have been the most ever. 

We also charged the most federal firearm prosecutions in a decade.

And we’re not just putting people in jail for the sake of putting people in jail.  The evidence is already starting to come in that our efforts are bearing fruit.

Preliminary data show that both the violent crime rate and the homicide rate are beginning to head back down.

Public data from 61 large cities suggest that violent crime overall was down in those cities in the first six months of 2018 compared to 2017.  The overall violent crime rate in those cities is down nearly five percent and murder is down more than six percent.

Our good friends at the Brennan Center project that the murder rate in our 30 biggest cities will decline by 7.6 percent this year—bringing the murder rate back down to 2015 levels in those cities.

And I am announcing today the FBI will release its annual Uniform Crime Report, which will show that violent crime and murder have stopped rising and actually declined in 2017.  That is something that we all should celebrate.

Those are the kind of results you get when you support law enforcement.  Those are the kind of results we get when we work together.

And so we’re going to keep up this pace.  We’re going to keep supporting you.  We’re going to keep arming you with the tools, resources, and expertise that you need to make your communities safe.

Each one of you can be certain about this: we have your back and you have our thanks.

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Author: September 24, 2018