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Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

Kansas Highway Patrol
Recruit Graduation
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Salina, KS

       Good afternoon. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this milestone event. And, before I begin, let me offer my most heartfelt congratulations! What an impressive group of recruits we have here!

       You have the rare distinction of simultaneously graduating and entering public service. Your personal achievement is a communal gift to all the citizens of Kansas and, in fact, our nation. So, thank you!

       I'd also like to thank Governor Mark Parkinson for his inspiring words and for his presence here today. At the U.S. Department of Justice, we are grateful to have such strong partners at the state level.

       I should also recognize your esteemed commanders - Colonel Terry Maple and Captain Dennis Gassman - and all your training academy instructors and coaches - for their work to ensure that we have troopers on the Kansas highways dedicated to service, courtesy, and protection.

       I'd like to especially acknowledge Colonel Maple, who has been a dedicated supporter of some of the Justice Department's most important rural initiatives. Our Bureau of Justice Assistance, or BJA, counts him as one of its most engaged and committed partners. If Colonel Maple is any example - and from what I see, he is just one of many - you are joining an amazing team with a clear, strong mission.

       On a more personal note, I have to tell you that I always look forward to law enforcement events like this. I learned most of what I know about building relationships and making community connections from law enforcement officers. During my more than 10 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in D.C., I got to work directly with local cops.

       They taught me about evidence and crime scenes - all the stuff that a prosecutor has to know - but they also taught me about life, about what motivates people, what actually works, and what it means to establish a common mission. In their dynamic classroom on the streets of D.C., I learned that law enforcement is all about relationships, and social order begins with mutual respect.

       That's why I think it's so significant that service and courtesy precede protection in your motto. Admittedly, maintaining professionalism and respect can sometimes be one of the most challenging of your many duties. You will undoubtedly encounter some less-than-pleasant individuals: drug traffickers who are destroying rural communities, addicts who risk lives when they drive under the influence, and people who recklessly disregard traffic laws. But by maintaining the professionalism instilled during your training, and by making it clear that you ultimately serve the community, you will help to protect us all.

       I'm so proud that the Justice Department was able to be a part of expanding this respected department. Today, the Kansas Highway Patrol is gaining 20 new recruits thanks to the Recovery Act.

       The Patrol received $4.7 million under the Recovery Act, which it is using to hire skilled and dedicated professionals - like all of you. But, this effort is more than a jobs program. Ultimately, it is also helping to make our highways and our communities safer. You are a strong testament to the fact that the Recovery Act continues to improve our economy, while enhancing our communities. The Recovery Act will impact our country for years to come and is helping to create a foundation for long-term economic growth.

       Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to speak at the National Rural Law Enforcement Meth Summit in Denver. That event was the kick off for a major new Rural Law Enforcement Meth Initiative. This initiative will provide $2.2 million in Recovery Act funds to strengthen rural responses to meth.

       Kansas is one of the seven participating states and will receive training and technical assistance, as well as a full-time state meth coordinator. This coordinator is working with a state team, including representatives from the Kansas Highway Patrol, to develop and implement an action plan to combat meth.

       Meth has become one of the most dangerous drugs for rural communities in general and for those in Kansas in particular, but it is far from the only drug found here. Marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, and countless other drugs travel your interstates and thoroughfares as well, and they are often accompanied by violence.

       Because of its central location in our country, Kansas is a superhighway for drug traffickers. There are approximately 10 to 20 Mexican criminal groups, each with up to 100 members, trafficking drugs throughout Kansas, according to the state Bureau of Investigation.

       Along Interstate 70, officers have experienced gun battles with drug traffickers. To respond to this problem, Domestic Highway Enforcement Teams were established using Recovery Act funds.

       One of the enforcement team members was on duty last December when he pulled over a U-haul truck for following too closely behind a Cadillac. The officer ticketed the U-haul driver, and, just a short while later, saw the same Cadillac at a gas station. Suspicious, he asked for permission to search the vehicle. The subject responded by running.

       In the car, officers uncovered 270 pounds of ecstasy - or $8.7 million worth of the drug. This was one of the largest roadside drug seizures in history by state and local law enforcement. And it wasn't over yet. Information from that case led to the seizure of 26 more pounds of ecstasy in Texas and 110 pounds of marijuana in Washington State.

       This case is an example of the powerful combination of excellent police work and intelligently targeted federal funds. It also shows just how much is at stake in your work.

       Our country is so interconnected, and long gone are the days when what happened - or was grown or manufactured - in Kansas, stayed in Kansas.

       In fact, Kansas faces more frequent and severe drug problems than many states not just because of its geographic location, but also due to its rural demographics. In rural states, drug trafficking and addiction are exacerbated by limited resources for treatment and prevention. The federal government is therefore providing targeted assistance to address what is really a national issue.

       We know that you - as Kansas Highway Patrol Troopers - are one of our best resources for stopping the infestation of drugs and the violence that accompanies it. This Administration is committed to helping officers like you address drug trafficking and addiction in a more comprehensive way - a way that balances enforcement with prevention and treatment.

       This, I think, goes back to your motto - service, courtesy, protection. You must protect and enforce the law, but sometimes protection means providing services for the innocent or afflicted - including crime victims, children, and drug addicts. It also means treating everyone with respect, not just because it will help you garner local support and cooperation, but also because it is the right thing to do.

       As you accept your badges today, you will be receiving a great honor and taking on a great responsibility. Please know that you do that with the immense gratitude of the Justice Department. Through the Recovery Act and our countless other initiatives, we will always strive to support you. We know that you - and your counterparts throughout this country - are the true foundation of our criminal and juvenile justice systems. Thank you.

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