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Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

Community Oriented Policing Services Conference

Monday, August 1, 2011
Washington, DC

     Thank you so much, Barney [Melekian]. I'm so pleased to be here.

     And it's terrific to see so many people at this conference who are invested in and committed to the mission of the COPS Office. And I just want to say, for the record, that, in my view, that mission remains as relevant - and as vital - today as it was 17 years ago when COPS opened its doors for business.

     I had the good fortune back in the 90s to be OJP's Assistant Attorney General under Janet Reno when the Crime Bill was passed and signed into law - and the COPS Office was created. That was an era of great - and positive - change for my agency, OJP, and for the Department of Justice overall. And, as we know, COPS was a key flagship initiative of the Clinton Administration's Crime Act programs - a clear success story - and it's no exaggeration to say that COPS helped to change the face of policing in America.

     Even beyond the hiring program, we can look back and say that COPS was instrumental in spreading the practice of community policing into departments across this country. Through innovation grants, through technical assistance, and through training conferences and the Regional Community Policing Institutes, COPS leveraged change in police-community relationships. Thanks in great part to its work, the random and reactive model of policing of the '70s and '80s receded, and police turned more and more to take on the role of problem solvers. It's not an overstatement to say the COPS Office helped engineer a revolution in public safety.

     One of the things I've always loved and admired about COPS is its nimble ability as a small agency to provide great customer service. Barney rightfully alluded to that! It really has reinvented the way a federal grant agency relates to its constituents. That was something that Joe Brann, COPS' first director - and a close friend - coming directly from the field, prided himself on. Joe set a precedent, and left a legacy, and the COPS Office has enjoyed a close relationship with the law enforcement agencies it serves ever since.

     Tom Frazier and Carl Peed continued that tradition and kept that sense of mission that Joe had instilled. And I should also mention here some terrific acting directors along the way - including my Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lou Leary, and Tim Quinn, who I worked closely with and who's now Chief of Staff to Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and, by the way, also a veteran of the COPS Office. And I don't want to forget Dave Buchanan, who ably served in an acting role early in the Obama Administration.

     And that tradition of outstanding leaders continues to this day. Barney brought with him from the field both his extensive and invaluable experience as a law enforcement leader and his conviction that law enforcement is central to a healthy and safe community. We couldn't ask for a more capable, more committed Director of the COPS Office than Barney Melekian. I think he deserves a great round of applause.

     And I really have to also praise Barney's incredible staff. We've partnered with them on a wide range of issues, from less lethal weapons to tribal enforcement issues to information sharing and procedural justice - which I know you'll hear about from Sheriff Rahr a little later. And I could name a dozen other efforts that we've collaborated on.

     And our partnership continues, as our participation in this conference attests. I'm pleased that we have OJP staff here talking about our work in the areas of youth and gang violence, children's exposure to violence, and officer safety, and area that I can attest Eric Holder views as a personal priority.

     And I hope you'll visit the exhibit here for our new OJP Web site, CrimeSolutions.gov. This is a brand new resource for the field that I've wanted for a long time - an easy-to-access "what works" clearinghouse. It's set up to provide information on a range of evidence-based approaches - it even includes ratings for effective and promising programs and programs that show no effect, based on research.

     And it's designed with the busy practitioner in mind, so you don't have to wade through pages and pages of research material to find out what can be useful to you in your jurisdictions. I know Barney and I share this commitment to helping the field build on evidence-based approaches, and that's what CrimeSolutions.gov is all about.

     And speaking of a commitment to evidence-based policing and supporting professionals in the field, I know in a few moments, I'll have the pleasure of joining Barney in presenting an award to a good friend of ours - and to all the law enforcement community in this country - Dan Rosenblatt.

     I knew Dan long before he joined IACP in the mid-80s as a project director. Before going to IACP, he'd worked for Lois Harrington, OJP's first Assistant Attorney General back in the early '80s - (so Dan and I were just teenagers at that point) - and he made the transition when IACP was dealing with some tough challenges. Dan distinguished himself by the way he handled those issues, and, as we know, rose to become Executive Director.

     He's now been at the helm of IACP for more than 20 years, and he's been a steady force for policing all that time. Those of you who know Dan know he's frequently behind the scenes, but his influence has been profound. He's been a counselor to Vice Presidents, Senators, police chiefs, and front-line practitioners. He's also been a career-long friend, someone I value - and cherish - both professionally and personally.

     And anyone who knows Dan also knows about his obsession with baseball, which is something, by the way, he shares with my husband. Baseball is a passion for Dan, rivaled only by his family and his commitment to IACP. This is a man who does nothing halfway.

     It will clearly be a heavy blow when he leaves IACP in the fall. But Dan, thank you for your many, many years of service. We will miss you terribly.

     Finally, I've spent the last several minutes praising my colleagues, but I'd like to end by commending all of you. I certainly don't need to remind you of the many challenges you've been asked to face, but I'm convinced that - thanks to your dedication and sacrifice and the foundation of partnership we've laid with one another - we're in an excellent position to meet those challenges.

     Despite the obstacles - the budget cuts, the homeland security responsibilities, the sophisticated tools that criminals now have at their disposal - you've managed to make our communities safer places to live. It's a remarkable feat, and we owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

     From the outset of this Administration two-and-a-half years ago, a top priority for Attorney General Eric Holder and his leadership has been to work closely with, and listen to, state and local law enforcement.

     We thank you for that partnership - and look forward to working with you in the years ahead.


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