Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Major Cities Chiefs Association 2009 Fall Meeting
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Thank you, Chief Bratton (Bill).
I'm very glad to be here, and I'm pleased the Department of Justice is once again engaged with our nation's law enforcement leaders.
I know that some of you have been wondering where the Department has been for the last eight years. I'm proud to say we're back, and we have an Attorney General – and a President – who are committed to supporting local law enforcement and restoring our partnership with you – not only through words, but through action.
I want to thank Major Cities Chiefs – and local and state law enforcement leaders – for working with OJP to get the word out about Recovery Act funding.
I'm delighted to announce that we've now awarded all Recovery Act grants. This was a tremendous undertaking – more than $2.7 billion went out the door. More than 3,200 law enforcement agencies received direct funding, and many more will benefit once states award their pass-through grants.
The next phase is reporting on progress. And we'd like to enlist your help.
Starting October 10, grantees will be required to submit their first progress reports to Recovery.gov. The President has emphasized the importance of transparency, and grant recipients will be held strictly accountable for how funds are used. Please help us underscore to your colleagues how important it is that they submit full and complete reports on time.
I'd like to spend the few minutes I have talking about a topic of great importance to the Attorney General, and one of our top priorities at OJP – promoting evidence-based approaches for reducing crime.
There's been a debate in law enforcement and criminal justice circles the last few years about crime trends – What are the trends exactly? How much can we rely on them? What do aggregated national rates mean for individual communities? And so on.
We think the lesson is pretty clear – and we know you agree: Different communities face different problems, and what works in one jurisdiction may not work in another.
A simple enough diagnosis, but what to do about it?
We now have a substantial body of research in the criminal justice field, and the knowledge we're gaining from that research is having a greater influence on practice than ever before.
A prime example is Hot Spots. Criminologists and practitioners spent decades focusing on why certain people commit certain crimes. Until recently, few people really considered that context might play a central role in criminal activity.
Today, thanks to law enforcement leaders like Chief Bratton and many of you, and researchers like Larry Sherman and David Weisburd, we're now looking at place as the focus of crime reduction efforts.
The implications of this are enormous, because this knowledge about the place-based nature of crime makes it easier to focus law enforcement resources.
Many cities, like L.A. and New York, are using this knowledge to redesign their approaches to crime – and to great success.
Having this body of knowledge – whether about Hot Spots, or drug markets, or gun violence prevention – does us little good if we don't figure out how to make use of it. That's where my agency, OJP, can help.
OJP has an important role to play in getting information out about what works – and what doesn't work – in reducing crime. We're uniquely positioned to help the field integrate data-driven approaches into state and local decision-making.
We're working now to improve the way we do that through our Evidence Integration Initiative, which has three aims:First – improve the quantity AND quality of evidence we generate through our research, evaluation, and statistical functions.
Second – better integrate evidence in program and policy decisions.
Third – improve the translation of evidence into practice.
Our goal is to help the field better understand what has been shown to work, based on accepted scientific principles. Yes, we are getting back to the science.
This idea of incorporating research into practice is one that has been embraced by many of you – chiefs in our largest departments. It's very encouraging, and we want to build on that momentum.
I know Chief Bratton and others of you are huge champions of predictive policing, which uses real-time crime patterns to anticipate where crime is likely to occur.
Our National Institute of Justice will be making several awards for planning and evaluation of predictive policing programs. We're also working with Chief Bratton and others to hold a symposium in November to discuss how we can develop responsible strategies for making predictive policing work.
We continue to promote intelligence-led policing approaches, and we're taking that concept into the area of campus safety. Thanks to Major Cities for your work with our Bureau of Justice Assistance on the campus security initiative. The best practices to help local law enforcement better coordinate with campus police will be finalized soon.
Better use of intel ties in with our information sharing efforts, especially with fusion centers.
BJA and DHS have been providing fusion center guidance and technical assistance for a number of years. To date, we've provided more than 160 training and technical assistance sessions covering areas such as privacy, security, and development of analysis tools.
Our role with fusion centers is expanding. In fact, the White House wants to create a Program Management Office to provide funding and guidance for fusion centers at the state and local levels.
The SAR Initiative:
Fusion centers are also participating in the Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative. You heard from Tom O'Reilly in BJA about this earlier.
Major Cities has been instrumental in getting this initiative off the ground. We appreciate the leadership of Chief Bratton and Tom Frazier, as well as Sheriff Gillespie and the chiefs at the other eight SAR sites being supported by BJA. You're the ones who started this effort.
As you know, Major Cities has been training law enforcement executives on the development of privacy policies and analytical procedures.
Major Cities Intelligence Commanders are playing an important role in helping us look at events like Mumbai and translating those lessons to the U.S.
We're also seeing that information gathered and maintained through local agencies can be shared and still locally controlled. BJA will be using the shared space concept to improve the exchange of information related to gangs.
As many of you know, the idea behind this shared space concept is that each of the participants has a server that it loads its information into. But the local agency retains control of the information instead of sending it to a centralized or federal system.
BJA awarded a grant to the IJIS Institute to start the creation of this model, and I'm pleased to announce today that we'll be asking Major Cities to provide subject matter experts to advise us on the needs of local police in this area.
One word about leadership before I stop. I know Chief Bratton and others of you have emphasized the importance of recruiting and preparing a new generation of law enforcement leaders. And I know this has been a particularly difficult time for law enforcement recruiting given the economy.
Through the Discover Policing Web site, we've registered more than 600 employers with about 1,500 job openings, and there are about 2,000 registered job seekers. I think that's a good sign.
So these are just a few areas of ongoing and prospective partnership with Major Cities Chiefs. We look forward to an active dialogue on ways we can build on our foundation of evidence-based approaches.
Please keep us informed of what you're learning in the field, and let us know how we can support you in building on data-driven approaches that have been shown to work.