10 months ago

Sessions at Hoover law enforcement conference: ‘We have your back and you have our thanks’

HOOVER – Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday morning delivered the keynote address at the National Public Safety Partnership (NPSP) Symposium, reaffirming his staunch support of law enforcement and touting the Trump administration’s success in making “law and order” a national focus again.

The speech, which was peppered with college football jabs and followed remarks from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale and United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Jay Town, served as a rallying call to the assembled crowd of approximately 200 crime-fighting officials from around the nation.

“On behalf of President Donald Trump I want to thank everyone here for your efforts to maintain law and order in America. Make no mistake about it: President Trump is a law and order president,” Sessions stated.

He added, “President Trump took office with a mission, a mandate, from the American people to restore public safety.”

In Sessions’ view, President Barack Obama’s administration did not do enough to combat violent crime, with the attorney general even saying that the Obama Department of Justice had been on the wrong side of the law.

“I believe that American law enforcement is unsurpassed. Some of these people don’t seem to [understand] how hard our people work … We’ve had some really confused thinking in recent years. We intend to put an end to that,” Sessions said.

He touched more on the topic, explaining, “Big mistakes were made, some saw police as the problem. And as a result, in the last two years of the previous administration, the violent crime rate went up by nearly seven percent. Assaults went up nearly 10 percent. Rape went up by nearly 11 percent. Murder shot up by more than 20 percent. That’s what was happening when we took office.”

He continued by outlining that crime, before Obama’s tenure, had been dropping in America since President Ronald Reagan had helped reverse a previous spike.

“This was especially shocking because from 1991 to 2014, violent crime had dropped by half. Murder dropped by half. So did aggravated assault. Rape decreased by more than a third, and robbery plummeted by nearly two-thirds,” Sessions detailed.

“From the beginning I have said, and let me say this loud and clear again: we will not let that progress slip away. We are determined, resolutely to get back to reducing crime rates,” he continued.

While Sessions and Trump are portrayed in the national media as being on rocky terms, Sessions talked about being on the same page as the president and carrying out his agenda.

“The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, the President sent me three Executive Orders that have guided the work of this Department ever since. We embrace the orders,” Sessions said.

He discussed these orders, saying “First, he ordered me to enhance officer safety and to ‘back the blue.’ Second, he ordered me to dismantle the transnational criminal organizations and the cartels that are responsible for so much of the violent crime in this country. And third, he ordered me to reduce crime in America—not to preside over ever-increasing levels of crime.”

Sessions said he believes that strong law and order policies, carried out by diligent officials, can reduce violent crime and improve public safety.

“Some people think that crime levels are like the tides—going up and down and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Sessions advised. “But not this President, and not this Attorney General. He believes that law enforcement can bring down crime rates—and he’s right.”

A key part of Sessions’ efforts is the NPSP – a Department of Justice program formed in 2017 after an executive order from President Donald Trump directing the department to “take the lead on Federal actions to support law enforcement efforts nationwide and to collaborate with State, tribal, and local jurisdictions to restore public safety to all of our communities.”

The program is a rigorous training and technical assistance initiative for selected cities across the nation, which is designed to help the locations develop and execute their own procedures intended to reduce violent crime. NPSP provides two complementary, but separate, levels of assistance – diagnostics teams and operations teams – tailored to the needs of respective communities. Birmingham was chosen as one of the pilot operations sites last year.

Monday, in his speech, Sessions announced the next steps in the program’s support of law enforcement officers, including grants to select cities. He also touched on another crucial initiative to provide federal expertise to local law enforcement.

“Since 2013, 650 school resource officers have been trained through our partnership with the National Association of School Resource Officers, or NASRO, which is based right here in Hoover. We have also provided funding to NASRO to expand and update their existing curriculum,” Sessions previewed.

He then made a big announcement.

“Today I am announcing that the Department will provide $200,000 to NASRO, and that they will use this funding to train school resource officers all across America,” Sessions declared. “We are currently in the process of developing an online training program with NASRO to increase the reach of training efforts. Today’s grant will result in training of approximately 230 school resource officers.”

Sessions, throughout his address, commended law enforcement officers and efforts being made to keep America safe. All of the speakers before him enthusiastically stressed collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement and praised Sessions’ leadership in improving these relationships and working efficacy.

Selection to the NPSP stipulates that a respective city is in compliance with federal immigration law. Since that time when Birmingham was admitted to the program, Mayor Randall Woodfin has come out saying the city would go beyond being a sanctuary city when it comes to cooperating with ICE, declaring Birmingham a “welcoming city.”

While officials did not address this conundrum in their public speeches, speculation has been rampant about potential ramifications for Birmingham and Woodfin himself.

Sessions did give the example of how cooperation with federal officials will help the Magic City.

“[R]ight here in Birmingham, during a recent operation, ATF arrested more than 20 violent gang members charged with more than 800 crimes, averaging three felonies each. Officers seized more than 70 firearms as part of this operation. Jay [Town] is working with local prosecutors to determine the most appropriate jurisdiction in which to prosecute each of these criminals,” Sessions explained.

He added, “There are a lot more successes we could talk about. And I’m confident that there are a lot more successes ahead.”

Sessions made another exciting announcement during his Alabama speech, pointing to data that shows law enforcement efforts are working.

“I am announcing today the FBI will release its annual Uniform Crime Report, which will show that violent crime and murder have stopped rising and actually declined in 2017. That is something that we all should celebrate,” Sessions told the crowd.

“Those are the kind of results you get when you support law enforcement. Those are the kind of results we get when we work together,” Sessions continued.

For the nation’s top law enforcement official, the key to success is all about supporting the people doing the job, putting their lives on the line every day.

“And so we’re going to keep up this pace,” Sessions added. “We’re going to keep supporting you. We’re going to keep arming you with the tools, resources, and expertise that you need to make your communities safe.”

“Each one of you can be certain about this: we have your back and you have our thanks,” he concluded.

Watch:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

 

7 hours ago

Mobile Bay Bridge project awarded $125 million grant by Trump administration

The I-10 Mobile Bayway Bridge project has been awarded a $125 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The announcement was made Monday by Senator Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) office, which said the amount signifies one of the largest competitive federal grants ever awarded to the state of Alabama.

Additionally, the city of Tuscaloosa was separately awarded a $6.87 million INFRA grant to help replace an overpass bridge located on University Boulevard and U.S. Highway 82.

“Both of these projects will help improve safety, alleviate traffic congestion and concerns with overcapacity, and promote increased economic development opportunities across the state,” Shelby said in a statement.

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“Investing in essential infrastructure in Alabama and across the country promotes a more prosperous future for our nation,” he concluded. “I thank (U.S. DOT) Secretary Chao for her attention to these projects and look forward to continuing my work to ensure that our state is well represented in any effort to fund federal transportation priorities.”

The federal award to the I-10 Mobile Bayway Bridge project comes amid significant controversy over the Alabama Department of Transportation’s (ALDOT) plan to pay for the project, at least partially, through tolling. The total projected cost of the project is approximately $2 billion.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) has previously lamented that ALDOT was not more focused on securing federal money and avoiding tolling, even as Alabama federal officials like Byrne and Shelby worked to secure funding access.

ALDOT was previously turned down for a $250 million federal grant application for the project last year.

Byrne led Alabama’s entire House delegation in sending a bipartisan letter to Chao in February in support of funding the project with an INFRA grant.

After the news of the award broke on Monday, Byrne released a statement celebrating the news and reaffirming his opposition to ALDOT’s tolling proposal.

“This is outstanding news for the people of Southwest Alabama! Fighting for federal funding for this bridge has been one of my top priorities in Congress, and I am glad the Trump Administration has come through with this grant award,” Byrne said. “I am very appreciative of the help from our entire Alabama congressional delegation, especially Senator Richard Shelby.”

“Today is a positive step toward making this project a reality, but our work is not over,” he added. “The current tolling proposal for this project is unacceptable, and I will continue leading the fight against tolling and working to ensure this project helps – not hurts – the people of South Alabama.”

The tolling proposal has also become a statewide political piñata, with 2020 Republican U.S. Senate candidates such as Tommy Tuberville and Secretary of State John Merrill coming out swinging in addressing the topic recently.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Byrne: Border battle harms Alabama communities

The detrimental effects of the humanitarian and national security crisis on our border extend all the way to Alabama communities. That’s why I’ve made it a priority to address our immigration policies.

One of the most obvious ways our insecure border harms our communities is the drug trade. Our porous border is perhaps the most significant contributing factor to the ongoing opioid crisis — the worst drug epidemic in modern American history. In 2017, over 47,000 lives were claimed by opioids. That’s more than those from car accidents and firearms. These deaths have affected families across our great state.

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The drug problem is made worse by the unprecedented migrant surge. James Carroll, director of the U.S. Office of Drug Control Policy, said just last week that drug seizures are down this year because so much attention is being diverted to humanitarian needs.

Because of that diversion, border patrol agents and resources are unable to be allocated towards their fundamental law enforcement functions. According to Carroll, more drugs are coming in than ever before.

One of the primary drivers of the migrant crisis is our asylum policy. Through a combination of loopholes worsened by a legal settlement made by the Clinton administration, migrants are encouraged to cross our border and give themselves up to law enforcement.

After arrest, migrants claiming asylum are eventually permitted entrance into the country while their claims are processed. This is permitted even when migrants do not cross at a legal checkpoint.

Although, by some estimates, only around a tenth of asylum claims are found by our courts to be legitimate, the vast majority never show up for their court date and remain free inside the United States.

A disproportionate number of these asylum claims are made by able-bodied young men. Only a few months ago, a Mobile teacher was killed in a car crash by an illegal immigrant minor who had falsely claimed asylum but never showed at his court date to avoid deportation.

The coyotes and cartels, of course, have every reason to facilitate migrants along their journey and orchestrate lawlessness at the border.

Last week, one of the biggest points of entry at the Southern border had to be shut down after a wave of nearly 50 undocumented immigrants rushed the border into Texas. The group attempted to tear down barricades and assaulted several border patrol officers who were forced to deploy tear gas and pepper balls.

Let’s call these people what they are – criminals. And while border agents were able to keep these criminals out of our communities, many more slip through the cracks while agents deal with illegal stunts like this and the humanitarian needs of asylee claimants.

Last year, a 13-year-old girl in Huntsville was beheaded after witnessing the stabbing of her grandmother by gang members in a horrific incident involving members of the Sinaloa Cartel. It is disheartening that gangs like MS-13 have infiltrated communities throughout our nation, but stories like this reinforce the sad truth that the problem is impacting Alabamians.

There are other significant problems that do not receive headlines. I’ve spoken with Alabama sheriffs who have shared horror stories about the strain illegal immigration places on their deputies. And I’ve talk to incredibly frustrated school superintendents who must divert resources away from educating local students to deal with their illegal immigrant population. Our hospitals are also placed under enormous burdens by illegal immigration. And governments are forced to pay for services for illegal immigrants that could have gone towards roads, bridges and other services for Americans.

This is not just a Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California issue. This is an Alabama issue. I will continue standing with President Trump and work to get an immigration system that works for the American people.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

9 hours ago

Boating deaths are soaring on Alabama’s lakes and rivers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama has already had its deadliest year in two decades for boaters — and the summer isn’t nearly over yet.

Boating accidents in the first 6 ½ months of 2019 have killed 25 people, AL.com reported.

Already, that makes this year the deadliest one since 1998, when 32 people died. The number of deaths so far this year is already higher than year-end totals for the past several years.

This July alone, 12 crashes resulted in six deaths.

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“In my 24 years of doing this, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Capt. Gary Buchanan, the commander of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Marine Patrol.

Investigators can’t definitively pinpoint the cause for this year’s drastic increase, Buchanan said.

“Some have happened at night, some during the day, some have involved one boat, some two boats and alcohol has been a factor in some,” Buchanan said. “It’s all over the spectrum.”

There has been a decrease in Marine Patrol presence on Alabama’s lakes and rivers. There are roughly 45 Marine Patrol current officers throughout Alabama. There are 21 vacancies — jobs that were all filled 10 to 15 years ago, Al.com reported.

Boater registrations have also increased in recent years.

“There’s an increase in boaters and there are fewer Marine Patrol troopers on the waterways,” Buchanan said. “There’s no doubt that an enforcement presence has an effect on behavior, just like when you top that hill and you see a trooper car in front of you.”

The year with the most boating-related fatalities was 1972, which had a year-end total of 55. The year with the fewest, according to ALEA statistics, was 2013, with 10.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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10 hours ago

Alabama K9 officer dies after drug raid

“Jake,” a K9 officer with the Alabama Department of Corrections, has died following a raid Thursday on Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore County.

CBS 42 reported last week that Jake was recovering after having a medical emergency during a contraband raid at the prison. He reportedly came into contact with synthetic marijuana and became unresponsive. Medical personnel and his handler at the prison then heroically performed live-saving measures on the K9, who was expected to return to duty within a few weeks.

However, CBS 42′ Reshad Hudson reported on Monday that Jake died from complications following the initial incident.

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WSFA is reporting that Jake died on Saturday at Auburn University Veterinary Clinic.

“I was saddened to hear that one of the Corrections K9s, Jake, lost his life over the weekend,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “This K9 died in service to public safety and in service to the state. Jake is an example of the goodness, the loyalty and service that our four-legged friends provide. We certainly lost a loyal companion.”

A criminal investigation into Jake’s death is reportedly underway. More testing of the apparent synthetic marijuana is pending, according to ADOC. Officials told WSFA that anyone found to be responsible in Jake’s death will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Jake had worked with his handler, Sgt. Quinton Jones, since the K9 joined ADOC in 2014.

“This is a difficult time for our ADOC family and especially for Sgt. Jones and those assigned to our K9 Bureau who worked with Jake on a daily basis,” ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn told WSFA. “I extend our deepest condolences for the loss of this noble K9 who honorably served the State of Alabama and for ultimately giving his life while protecting the public.”

Dunn added that Jake likely saved lives by detecting the substance during the raid.

“With Jake’s training and ability to find the narcotic, he saved other lives by giving his own in the line-of-duty. Jake’s heroism and ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten,” he emphasized.

Jake will be given a burial with full honors this week, according to WSFA.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Byrne visiting U.S.-Mexico border on Monday

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) is visiting the United States’ southern border on Monday, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate’s office announced in a release.

Byrne reportedly arrived at the border Monday morning and will meet with Customs and Border Protection officials, tour a port of entry and visit an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility.

“As the national security and humanitarian crisis at our border escalates, it is important to see the situation firsthand and talk directly with border agents, law enforcement, and local officials about the challenges they face and what resources they need,” Byrne said in a statement.

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He has been a consistent supporter of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

“The American people have demanded a lawful system of immigration that protects their economic and personal safety, and I will continue working closely with President Trump and his Administration to secure our border, support law enforcement, and keep the American people safe,” Byrne concluded.

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has opposed building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn