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.
It was an honor to welcome Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Alabama for the National Public Safety Partnership Symposium today. Birmingham is one of 31 cities partnering with @TheJusticeDept to fight violent crime. pic.twitter.com/2e0S0DRZLh
— AG Steve Marshall (@AGSteveMarshall) September 24, 2018
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn