Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
National Sheriffs' Association Annual Conference
National Sheriffs' Institute
June 20, 2006
Thank you for inviting me here today. The Department of Justice is honored to have such a wonderful partner as the National Sheriffs' Association. And we appreciate the opportunity to participate in the NSA conference.
You've already heard from several representatives of the Department of Justice, including one of my deputies, Cybele Daley. I hope you were able to attend our workshops. One was about planning for a possible pandemic. Another was this morning. It focused on the impact of human trafficking on communities across the country. I'll talk more about these issues in a few minutes.
The first thing that I want to do is congratulate you all! On behalf of President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales, both of whom I'm proud and privileged to serve, I commend you for your decision to work for the safety of your communities. We in the Department of Justice and the Administration are grateful for your commitment, and we pledge our support as you work to maintain law and order.
The National Sheriffs' Institute is helping to develop leaders in the field of law enforcement. I challenge you to take what you have learned at the Institute and continue to develop these vital leadership skills.
We at OJP also are committed to fostering law enforcement leaders. We know that training opportunities for law enforcement are abundant. But these varied training courses might not adequately develop the competencies that officers need to become effective leaders.
That is why my office has begun a dialogue with various law enforcement groups, including NSA, to identify the leadership competencies law enforcement officers need.
We held a meeting in April to frame the issues. And we'll hold another meeting early in the fall to continue our discussions. The key question we're trying to answer is this: "Are we giving officers the skills they need to be successful leaders as they move into command staff and beyond"?
Once we've agreed on a list of competencies, we want to catalog them, and ensure that we are supporting the training that builds these competencies. It's a big challenge, but I know that we're up to the job! It's important to all of us in this room, and to the public, that we accomplish this mission.
At the beginning of my remarks, I mentioned planning for a possible pandemic. In early May, the President released his "Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza." The plan calls for a coordinated response by federal, state, and local governments. This preparation will help ensure that the rule of law is upheld and maintained throughout any crisis, whether natural or man-made.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that a pandemic would likely come in waves of six to eight weeks in duration, and cause high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss. Therefore, it is critical that all public safety agencies be able to preserve the rule of law in our communities. These individual agencies will have to work across disciplines to ensure an effective response and to maintain order.
Later this year, we will have a Web site with more information about how local justice system agencies can plan for, and respond to, a pandemic or other public health crisis. In addition, we are working with key partners in law enforcement, courts, and corrections to make technical assistance and training opportunities available to state and local justice agencies. We'll have more information about this soon.
Human trafficking was the subject of another of our workshops this week. Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked against their will across international borders. Of those, about 15,000 victims are trafficked into the United States. These victims are forced into prostitution, or to work in sweatshops or in other forms of involuntary servitude. Half of all trafficking victims are children under the age of 18. These young victims often become the pawns of the sex tourism industry. As President Bush has said, they "see little of life before they see the very worst of life."
The Bush Administration has taken a broad approach to end human trafficking. In January, the President signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. This law will enable us to continue to investigate and prosecute traffickers by providing new grants to state and local law enforcement.
In addition, the law will help us provide important new services to victims, including appointing guardians for young victims. Furthermore, the President has requested $20 million in his fiscal 2007 budget to help state and local law enforcement agencies fight trafficking.
Only a generation ago, parents could feel reasonably confident that their children were safe as long as they were in the house. The potential for harm was significantly reduced simply by locking one's doors. Unfortunately, times have changed.
The Internet now gives others, whether next door or across the globe, instant access to our homes and lives. Although many positive things have come as a result of the Web, it also has brought into our homes some darker, even sadistic, practices. Disturbingly, many of these practices involve children.
To prevent the online exploitation and abuse of children, the Attorney General launched Project Safe Childhood on May 17.
This initiative is designed to support law enforcement officers and prosecutors as they investigate cybercrimes against children. It also will help parents and others understand the precautions they can take to safeguard children from online predators.
Project Safe Childhood will help law enforcement and community leaders develop a coordinated strategy to combat these heinous offenses. The initiative is modeled on Project Safe Neighborhoods, which aims to reduce gun violence and gang crime. Just as Project Safe Neighborhoods successfully uses a multi-jurisdictional approach to crime on our streets, Project Safe Childhood will bring together law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and community-based organizations to fight crimes in cyberspace.
Project Safe Childhood will build on an existing network of 46 intergovernmental task forces that already have been working to develop effective responses to cyber-enticement and child pornography cases. These Internet Crimes Against Children, or ICAC, task forces operate across the country and assist in investigations, provide forensic support, and help prosecute cases. They also offer training and technical assistance, aid victims, and provide community education.
Since the ICAC program began in 1998, more than 7,300 arrests have been made. In 2005 alone, ICAC investigations led to more than 1,600 arrests and to more than 6,000 forensic exams.
Sheriffs have been vital to the success of the ICAC program. In fact, several task forces are led by sheriffs' offices. For example, in Florida, the Law Enforcement Against Child Harm task force, managed by the Broward County Sheriff's Office, was critical to the arrest of a television weatherman. In this case, a detective with the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office posed as a 14-year-old boy in an online chat room. The two set up a meeting. When the 47-year-old weatherman showed up at the appointed meeting place, officials were waiting. The man pleaded guilty to one count of using the Internet to entice a minor to engage in sex. He was sentenced to five years in federal prison and supervised probation for life. He also was fined $20,000.
OJP is committed to supporting our sheriffs and other law enforcement professionals as they undertake this difficult and painstaking work. This year, we provided $14 million to the ICAC task forces to continue their investigations. I am confident that these task forces will continue to be successful in protecting our children.
We also are developing a pilot program that we hope to administer with NSA and the Children's Identification and Location Database, or CHILD, Project. We hope that this pilot program will allow OJP and NSA to explore new technologies that will assist law enforcement in tracking and recovering missing children. I'll be talking with you more about this endeavor in the future.
Another challenge many of you face is fighting the spread of methamphetamine. According to the most recent data, 583,000 people are "current users" of meth, meaning that they report having used used this drug within the previous 30 days. Some 1.4 million people report having used meth within the last year. That's almost four times the number of heroin users in the United States. And 60 percent of counties rank meth as their biggest drug problem.
Last year, the Justice Department teamed up with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services to launch a Web site that helps in fighting the spread of meth. MethResources.gov provides a variety of resources, including information for law enforcement about how to clean-up these labs. It also provides information on state laws designed to prevent and reduce meth use. I encourage you to check out the Web site, if you haven't already.
We also are supporting training for law enforcement agencies on identifying and responding to meth labs. While we are working to learn more about the impact of exposure to the chemicals used in meth labs, I want us to be sure that we are doing everything we can to protect the officers who are on the scene. Through these trainings, state and local partners will learn about how to effectively clean up the site, assess and address child and community safety issues, dispose properly of materials, and protect officers while they are at these labs.
I also want to touch on our efforts to combat gangs. On June 6, the Attorney General announced $15 million to fund awards for the Gang Resistance Education and Training, or GREAT, program. Almost $1.2 million went to sheriffs' offices. For example, one of the awardees is the Orange County Sheriff's Office led by Sheriff Kevin Berry. This office received $250,000 for its GREAT program. The awards for the GREAT program follow the Attorney General's announcement last month of $30 million in grants, training, and technical assistance to U.S. Attorneys across the country to expand their efforts to fight gang violence.
If you are interested in more detailed information about GREAT, I encourage you to attend the 2006 GREAT Program conference. The meeting will be July 26-28 at the La Quinta Resort and Club in Palm Springs, California. More information about the conference and the GREAT program is on OJP's Web site.
In addition, the Bush Administration is restructuring the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative to address prevention, prosecutions, enforcement, and prisoner reentry. The President's fiscal 2007 budget request includes $395 million for the Project Safe Neighborhoods program.
Since the PSN effort was begun in 2001, OJP has awarded more than $250 million. Some $50 million has been used for Project Sentry, the element of Project Safe Neighborhoods that focuses on reducing juvenile gun violence. This year, we are reorganizing the PSN program to include the very successful Weed and Seed strategy, which now operates in more than 300 communities across the country.
I've talked about a variety of law enforcement issues. Now, in closing, I want to mention two issues that more directly affect you. One is protecting you while you're on the job!
It's been 30 years since body armor was developed and first used in the field. Some 3,000 officers have survived shootings or other incidents because they were wearing body armor. Last year, we issued our third status report about the performance of Zylon-containing armor. When we learned that Zylon-containing vests might degrade over time, we responded quickly. We awarded an additional $10 million to state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to purchase new bulletproof vests. Since 1999, we've awarded $176 million to purchase and replace vests.
We are continuing our Body Armor Safety Initiative by testing new models of body armor, and taking a closer look at the compliance testing process.
Finally, I want to be sure you know that we're accepting nominations for the 2005-2006 Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor. This medal is the highest national award for service above and beyond the call of duty. Several sheriffs and deputy sheriffs have been honored with the medal. Jennifer Fulford-Salvano, a deputy sheriff here in Orange County, received the medal last year.
The nomination period closes on July 31. You can find the nomination form and other information on our Web site - ojp.usdoj.gov.
It's been an honor to join you today. You and your leadership is vital to your communities. And I congratulate you all and thank you for your commitment to serving the public.