Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Remarks at the National Association Of Police Organizations’ 26th Annual Top Cops Awards
Washington, D.C.
   
 
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Thank you, Mick, for that kind introduction and for your nearly 30 years of service to the people of Sarasota.

And thank you to NAPO for 40 years of service to our nation.  NAPO represents more than 1,000 police departments and associations, nearly a quarter of a million sworn law enforcement officers, and more than 100,000 citizens who support our law enforcement officers. Thank you for this great work.

During my first tenure as Attorney General I enjoyed a particularly close relationship with NAPO, and I am looking forward to resuming our close association.

I also want to thank Officer Leggio for that beautiful rendition of our national anthem, the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Honor Guard for presenting the colors, and the Los Angeles Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drums. As some of you may know, I have played the bagpipes since I was eight years old, and so I have a special appreciation for you. Let me know if you’d like to have a jam session later.

I also want to thank the members of Department of Justice leadership who are here tonight, including Phil Keith, who leads our COPS office.

But above all, I want to express my gratitude to all the law enforcement officers here tonight for all your do to protect and serve your communities. And I want to pay tribute especially the honorees tonight – our Top Cops award winners.

Law enforcement officers do heroic work every day in this country. And at the Department of Justice, we honor every single officer who wears the badge.

But tonight’s award winners are recognized for having gone above and beyond the call of duty.

They were nominated by the people who serve with them. After they were nominated, they were selected by a group of some of the top law enforcement officials in the country.

Tonight, 33 officers will share 10 awards.

Their stories are an inspiration to us all — and they exhibit all of the virtues that we admire in law enforcement officers: strength, courage, fortitude, restraint, and self-sacrifice, just to name a few.

Last July, Officer Donald DeMiranda and Officer Ryan Moore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts responded to disturbance call. On a Friday night in a beach town, that must have seemed routine.

But it was far from routine.

Shortly after they arrived on the scene, a man suddenly sprinted away from the officers and into a house. The officers pursued the suspect, who then allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Officer DeMiranda in the shoulder and in his bullet proof vest. He then allegedly fired a shot that grazed Officer Moore in the neck.

Officer DeMiranda shot the defendant, who ran out of the house and into the front yard. Officer DeMiranda ran and crashed through a glass door, caught the defendant, and put him in handcuffs.

While they were bleeding from their own gunshot wounds, Officer DeMiranda and Officer Moore tended to the wounds of the man who had allegedly just shot them — before caring for their own wounds.

That is true selflessness.

In November, the country was shocked and saddened by the shooting at Chicago’s Mercy Hospital. A gunman shot and killed his former fiancée—who was an Emergency Room doctor—in the parking lot outside the hospital. He then went inside and shot and killed an innocent bystander who was just 25 years old.

Chicago Police officers pursued him inside, and he fired more than 30 rounds back at them. He took the life of Officer Samuel Jimenez, who was only 28 years old and had been a police officer for only one year.

Lieutenant Jacob Alderden, Officer Bernardo Quijano, and Officer Elvis Turcinovic did not run away and they did not lose their resolve. They remained engaged in the firefight until they shot the suspect and ended the killing spree.

We are grateful for the poise and the courage of these brave officers.

In December of 2017, Officer Manuel Gonzalez of Miami was working a second job as a security guard at a store when a customer attempted to steal a flat screen television set.

Officer Gonzalez followed him to his vehicle and confronted him.

That customer turned out to be a convicted murderer.

He shot Officer Gonzalez six times, but Officer Gonzalez was still able to incapacitate the suspect and call an ambulance.

After weeks in the hospital and several surgeries, Officer Gonzalez is proud to be back on duty.

These stories are deeply moving—and of course, there are more Top Cops stories that we will hear tonight.

Each one of these stories of heroism is a reminder of the dangers faced by law enforcement officers on every shift of every day.

In all 10 of the award-winning citations tonight, at least one police officer was either shot at, wounded, or killed in the line of duty.

And so, even as we celebrate these heroic officers who are here tonight, we also recall those who could not be here.

One of the factors that is increasing the danger to police officers these days is increasing toleration of the notion that it is okay to resist the police. It was once understood that resistance is a serious crime because it necessarily triggers an escalation of violence that endangers the life not only of the police office, but also the suspect.

It was not too long ago that influential public voices – whether in the media, or among community and civic leaders – stressed the need to comply with police commands, even if one thinks they are unjust. “Comply first” and, if you think you have been wronged, “complain later.”

But we don’t hear this much anymore.  Instead, when an incident escalates due to a suspect’s violent resistance to police that fact is almost always ignored by the commentary. The officer’s every action is dissected, but the suspect’s resistance, and the danger it posed, frequently goes without mention.

We need to get back to basics. We need public voices, in the media and elsewhere, to underscore the needs to “Comply first, and, if warranted, complain later.” This will make everyone safe – the police, suspects, and the community at large. This will save lives.

Since my previous tenure as Attorney General, law enforcement has made historic progress in the fight against crime. When I took office, violent crime as at record levels. Since 1992 we have made dramatic progress in reducing violent crime.

The murder rate and the violent crime rate have both been cut by nearly half nationwide. The progress has been so consistent that it is easy to take for granted. But those of us here tonight are well aware that it was bought with a price.

There are many factors that affect crime rates. But we recognize that the main reason crime has decreased has always been — and always will be — the dangerous and stressful work done by state and local law enforcement officers day in and day out. If anyone can take credit for this historic decline in crime, it is you.

When I was last AG, I felt that forging a strong relationship with our state and local partners was essential to achieving our common mission. And indeed, that bond – sometimes stronger than at other times – has been critical to our success.

We still have a lot more work to do. And I and the Department of Justice are committed to working closely with our state and local partners, and NAPO specifically, to keep our communities safe.

For example, under the leadership of Director Jon Adler, our Bureau of Justice Assistance provides funding to state and local agencies for bullet-proof vests, law enforcement officer safety and wellness training, human trafficking and firearms investigations, and for many other purposes.

Thanks in large part to Phil Keith in our COPS Office, the Department of Justice has helped police departments hire more than 800 law enforcement officers across America since January of 2017.

As you know, my predecessor Jeff Sessions made fighting violent crime a top priority. And over the past two years, the Department has dramatically increased the number of criminal defendants charged at the federal level.

In 2017, the Justice Department charged the greatest number of violent crime defendants since we started to track this category in 1992.

In 2018, the Department broke the record again — this time by a margin of almost 15 percent.

At the same time, our prosecutors charged more than 15,000 defendants with federal firearms offenses, which broke records by a margin of 17 percent.

We have also significantly increased the number of federal drug prosecutions.

Just last month, in collaboration with state and local officers in five states, our Criminal Division announced the indictments of 60 defendants, including 31 doctors, for opioid-related crimes. According to the allegations, these defendants are responsible for 350,000 prescriptions, involving more than 32 million pills.

I want to assure you all that federal law enforcement is focused on helping you take criminals, illegal guns, and dangerous drugs out of your communities and off the streets that you patrol.

Our U.S. Attorneys have been directed to listen to officers like you about who the most dangerous criminals are in your community — and then to focus on putting them behind bars.

We call this program Project Safe Neighborhoods, and it is a proven crime-reduction strategy. It is modeled after a program I began during my previous tenure as Attorney General, called Weed and Seed.

So we will press on together – shoulder-to-shoulder. Rest assured as Attorney General Sessions frequently said, that “We have your back; and you have our thanks.”

The Nation is bless to have people of your character and professionalism serving on the front lines every day.

God bless you all.

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