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Meeting our Public Safety Goals
October 24, 2011 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Across the country, law enforcement agencies and police departments of all sizes are struggling to confront once-in-a-century financial constraints.  In the face of growing demands and increasingly limited resources, many law enforcement executives have been forced to make difficult – and often painful – budgetary decisions, while responding to a host of new and evolving threats.

I’m proud to say that our nation’s law enforcement community has responded to these challenges not with frustration, but with resolve.  Yet, in spite of their best efforts – and the strongest support this Administration can provide – there’s no denying that recent economic conditions have created significant obstacles to fulfilling critical public safety goals.

As part of ongoing work to better understand and overcome current fiscal challenges, this week, the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office released a new report on how the economic downturn has impacted police departments nationwide.  According to our research, we expect that, by the end of this year, nearly 12,000 police officers and sheriff’s deputies will have been laid off.  Already, law enforcement agencies nationwide currently have nearly 30,000 unfilled vacancies.  And an estimated 28,000 more officers and deputies experienced week-long furloughs last year.

In 25 years of collecting data, this is the first national decrease in law enforcement positions ever recorded. But – at every level of the Justice Department, and across the Obama Administration – we are committed to reversing this alarming and unacceptable trend.

That’s why – block by block, city by city, department by department – we are working to help our partners make the most of limited resources, and to get law enforcement officers back to work. 

Last month, with this goal in mind, the COPS office announced more than $240 million in new grants to support the hiring and retention of more than 1,000 officers in 238 agencies and municipalities across the country.  These critical funds will help promote not only employment, but public safety – and they’ll also provide support for innovative and cost-effective 21st century policing strategies.

But, while we are excited about what our law enforcement partners will be able to accomplish with these investments, we are far from satisfied.  And we cannot – and will not – forget about the additional 2,300 worthy grant applications – totaling more than $2 billion – that had to be declined because adequate resources were not available to fill them.

Fortunately, President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act would provide significant help in addressing this crisis.  The bill includes $4 billion in funding for law enforcement hiring through the COPS office.  These funds would not only help to safeguard our national security and bolster public safety – they would strengthen our economy by creating or saving essential jobs for first responders.

Yet the Senate has responded to these urgent needs with a proposal for only $200 million in support for such initiatives – and the House of Representatives has zeroed out this allocation altogether. 

This gap is not only drastic – it’s dangerous.  In taking action to combat the conditions that have devastated law enforcement agencies nationwide, we simply can’t afford to wait.

Tomorrow’s progress depends upon the commitments – and investments – we make today. Providing the resources necessary to get our first responders back on our streets – and to give them the tools they need to keep our neighborhoods safe – will not only strengthen our law enforcement community, but also help to ensure a brighter, and safer, future for our nation.

Find out more by reading the full report.

Attorney General Holder Visits the Potomac Job Corps Center
October 13, 2011 Posted by
Attorney  General Holder visits the Potomac Job Corps Training Center

Attorney General Holder visits the Potomac Job Corps Training Center

Today, Attorney General Eric Holder joined the Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis for a tour of the Potomac Job Corps Center in Washington, D.C. With 120+ nationwide campuses in over 40 states and Puerto Rico, Job Corps centers train over 60,000 students each year.

The U.S. Department of Labor administers the Job Corps career technical and education training program free-of-cost to help youth ages 16 through 24 improve their quality of life and find a career.  Since Job Corps’ beginning in 1964, the program has remained committed to offering students a positive environment for professional and educational success.

The Potomac Job Corps Center lives up to the mission of teaching eligible young people the skills they need to become employable, independent and professionally trained in variety of technical and academic areas.

Attorney General Holder and Secretary Solis speak with young people at the center.

Attorney General Holder and Secretary Solis speak with young people at the center.

During the tour of the Center,  Attorney General Holder joined students of all career areas in a round table discussion to listen to their personal stories, passions and plans for the future, saying:

 “I want to thank all of the students for their inspiring stories. They are the future leaders of this nation and I know their futures will be bright.”

During lunch, students in the Culinary Arts career program showcased their culinary skills for the Attorney General and Department of Labor Secretary Solis. Jobs Corps Center Director, Steven Belk, along with the center’s Student Government Association President, Andrea Williams, thanked Attorney  General Holder and Secretary Solis for visiting and taking time to talk with  the young people there. 

For more information, youth interested in applying to Job Corps should visit: http://www.jobcorps.gov/home.aspx

Champions for Justice
October 13, 2011 Posted by

 

Attorney General Holder hosts a panel with a selection of the honorees to discuss how to increase access to justice.

Attorney General Holder hosts a panel with a selection of the honorees to discuss how to increase access to justice.

 

 “Equal justice under the law” is more than just a phrase. It is an American ideal, at the core of our belief system.   And yet, for too many Americans, sound legal advice and assistance has been out of reach.

 That is why last year the President and the Attorney General launched the Access to Justice Initiative. It was formed to address this crisis – to ensure that basic legal services are available, affordable and accessible to everyone in this country – regardless of status, income, or wealth.  Across the country, the department has been diligently working with federal, state, local and private partners towards enhancing the availability, and quality of legal representation available to all.

Most defendants are dependent on the service of public lawyers, and in some cases, public defender caseloads are so excessive that they struggle to fulfill their basic obligations to their clients. Many times, these circumstances leave our criminal justice system falling short. Those who suffer most from these shortcomings are often the most vulnerable among us – immigrants, juveniles, the homeless, disabled veterans, or victims of domestic and sexual violence.

However, the innovation and perseverance of dedicated legal professionals across the nation is making a difference. 

 Today the Department of Justice and the White House, came together to celebrate and honor some of these “Champions of Change” who promote access to justice in their communities.  As Attorney General Eric Holder said:

All across the country, each one of them is making a difference – by helping people in dire need access legal services; by securing much-needed benefits for disabled children, military families, and veterans; by paving the way for individuals transitioning out of our prisons and jails to become productive members of their communities; and by helping to safeguard – and to empower – the most vulnerable among us.

Leading advocates from the private and public sector, including defense lawyers, prosecutors, law professors and law students attended the event.  There are 118 law schools watching the event via a live-feed, thousands more students got to witness as the Champions shared their successes and had an open discussion about the work that still remains to be done.

 Beginning on Oct. 17, 2011, a video of the event and Champions’ individual stories will be highlighted at www.whitehouse.gov/champions.  In addition, the Champions’ blogs, as well as entries from each of the 118 participating law schools describing their commitment to public service, will be featured.

 Since its launch, Access to Justice has made an impact in beginning to improve the legal system for all Americans, regardless of status. If you would like to learn more about the Access to Justice Initiative and how you can help in your own community, visit justice.gov/atj  

$130 Million Dollars in Cost Savings and Efficiency Measures
October 7, 2011 Posted by

 The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder

Since this Administration’s earliest days, President Obama has signaled his commitment to conserving resources – and saving precious taxpayer dollars – by cutting costs, streamlining government operations, and working to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse wherever we find it.  Across the Justice Department, achieving these goals has been a top priority.  And we’ve made critical – and, at times, extremely difficult – decisions to improve efficiency and reduce spending.

For example, at the beginning of this year, I ordered a Justice Department-wide hiring freeze, and instructed my colleagues at every level to limit travel, training, and other costs to only those needs that are absolutely essential.  This order remains in effect – and, to date, the reductions in conference spending alone have already provided savings of $14 million over the same period last year.

In June, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched an Administration-wide Campaign to Cut Waste, and directed every office and agency in the Federal Government to take their cost-cutting efforts to the next level.  Once again, the Justice Department rose to the challenge.

I am proud to report that the Department has taken significant, aggressive action to make good on our promise to act as sound stewards of taxpayer funds.  [Earlier this week/Last week], we announced a series of measures that will increase our efficiency, maintain our critical law enforcement and public safety activities, and save more than $130 million.

We’re determined to meet current budgetary challenges by more effectively using the Department’s resources, realigning functions in various offices, and lowering lease costs by consolidating or reducing office space wherever possible.  Based on the guidance of Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the recommendations of Justice Department leaders at every level, and the robust efforts of the Advisory Council for Savings and Efficiencies – which I created in July 2010, and which has already provided more than $50 million in savings – my colleagues and I will continue to seek new ways to reduce spending and increase the efficiency of our day-to-day-operations, without compromising our effectiveness.

In this time of uncommon challenges and unprecedented threats, the need to conserve scarce resources – and to accomplish more with less – has never been more apparent, or more urgent.  Across the Department of Justice, we are fully committed to these efforts.  And, throughout the Administration, I am confident in our ability to build on this record of success.

Learn more about the cost-saving measures recently announced by the Justice Department.

Improving Public Safety & Creating Jobs
October 5, 2011 Posted by

 

Attorney General Holder announces COPS grants in Ohio.

Attorney General Holder announces COPS grants in Ohio.

 

The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Today, along with COPS Director Barney Melekian, I traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to discuss the Justice Department’s most recent efforts to support our nation’s law enforcement community – and to ensure that police officers from coast to coast have the resources that they need and deserve.

In recent years, police departments like Cincinnati’s – and law enforcement agencies nationwide – have faced extraordinary budget difficulties and have been asked to do more with less.  All across the country, law enforcement officials have risen to the challenge – and found innovative, collaborative ways to improve public safety and to keep crime trends heading in the right direction.  But at a time when approximately 10,000 officer jobs have been cut, and three times as many positions are currently unfilled due to fiscal constraints, we have a looming national crisis on our hands, both in terms of public safety and public employment.  In short, our citizens need protection – and our police officers and other first responders need jobs.

As part of the Department’s ongoing effort to meet these needs, I’m proud to report that the COPS Office is providing more than $240 million in new grants to support the hiring and retention of more than 1,000 officers in nearly 240 agencies and municipalities across the country.  The Cincinnati Police Department alone was awarded more than $6.8 million in grant money from the COPS Hiring Program, which will fund 25 critical positions for three years. 

Such targeted investments are essential to advancing the Department’s mission to be smart, as well as tough, on crime.  These same priorities are reflected in President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act, which – in addition to creating new employment opportunities and bolstering economic growth – aims to put more officers on the beat and strengthen public safety efforts nationwide. 

Although we all can be proud of – and inspired by – the courage and commitment that our nation’s law enforcement officers exhibit every day, we must find ways to take this work to the next level.  The COPS Hiring Program – and this Administration’s determination to create and restore law enforcement jobs across the country – will allow us to do just that.

To learn more about the COPS Hiring Program and the Department’s ongoing work to support our law enforcement partners at every level, read the press release or visit http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/

Attorney General Holder Meets with Muslim Leaders in Portland
September 30, 2011 Posted by
Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton meet with Arab-American and Muslim leaders in Portland, Oregon

Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton meet with Arab-American and Muslim leaders in Portland, Oregon

This week, Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Dwight Holton met with Arab-American and Muslim leaders in Portland to discuss the department’s commitment to protecting the rights of the Muslim, Sikh, Arab-American, and South Asian communities.  

Attendees included: Salma Ahmad, Gulzar Ahmed, Shariar Ahmed, Shamima Banu, Mohammed Ridha, Mostafa Arifin, Ronault Catalani, Mohamed Farah, Samira Godil, Jamal Haagi, Mohammed Haque, Tahmina Hossain, Muhammad Najieb, Nadira Najieb, Musse Olol, Athar Pasha, Ayoob Ramjan, Zaki Said, Mozafar Wanly, Yosof Wanly, Anam Pasha and Mohamed Alyajouri.

The Justice Department, under Attorney General Holder, has emphasized outreach to American Muslim and Arab communities, building upon efforts by the Civil Rights Division, which has met with national leaders of Arab American and Muslim American organizations, as well as with other community groups across the country. These meetings are one way to ensure we continue to protect against threats to our national security while building trusting, collaborative, and productive relationships that facilitate mutual understanding between certain communities, and the law enforcement officials serving them.

Attorney General Holder has said:

“In this nation, our many faiths, origins and appearances must bind together, not break us apart.  In this nation, the document that sets forth the supreme law of the land – our Constitution – is meant to empower, not exclude.  And in this nation, security and liberty are – at their best – partners, not enemies, in ensuring safety and opportunity for all.”

The Department’s engagement efforts have two central components. First we seek to build trust by working with Muslim leaders to find out how we can better serve the community on issues like civil rights enforcement to anti-bullying efforts. In addition, we work to equip and empower local Muslim leaders to help them guard against violent extremists who are targeting young people in their communities for recruitment to misguided, violent causes.

The Muslim leaders who met with the Attorney General pledged their support and are undertaking practical steps resist violent extremists targeting their young people and help federal law enforcement do its job better. 

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks with Zaki Said during a meeting with Muslim leaders in Portland, Oregon.

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks with Zaki Said during a meeting with Muslim leaders in Portland, Oregon.

Engagement is just one way that the Justice Department is building stronger relationships with Arab and Muslim-American communities.  The Attorney General has met with Arab and Muslim-American community leaders in Washington, D.C. and across the country to discuss the federal government’s relationship the community and to improve the Department’s communication and collaboration with members of the community. Attorney General Holder also established an Arab and Muslim-American Engagement Advisory Group.  That group helps to coordinate and review community outreach efforts and policy initiatives that affect the community.

The department’s individual components have been active in the effort to address the concerns of Arab/Muslim communities through engagement and outreach. Many FBI field offices hold conference calls with local community leaders, and each field office employs a Community Outreach Specialist to engage the community through town hall meetings, public speaking, youth initiatives and citizens’ academies.  The Department’s Community Relations Service has responded to allegations of disparate and discriminatory treatment faced by Arab, Muslim, and Sikh communities across the country by offering conciliation and mediation services, as well as appropriate training programs for law enforcement, government officials and members of the community. 

In addition, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are working in their districts to engage with their local Arab and Muslim-American communities.

  • U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are reaching out directly to local Arab and Muslim-American leaders and groups to develop closer relationships, participating in local events hosted by Arab and Muslim-American groups in their districts, including annual dinners, mosque openings, lectures and town hall meetings.  And they have sponsored conferences to promote cultural understanding between law enforcement and Arab, Muslim and Sikh-Americans.
  • U.S. Attorneys have worked with other agencies, including the FBI and various Department of Homeland Security components, to conduct outreach through programs such as Project Safe Neighborhood, Weed and Seed, hate crimes task forces, civil rights initiatives and anti-gang efforts.
  • U.S. Attorneys have conducted outreach to the international community, including foreign nationals working in embassies, to share general information about the United States, with a focus on elections, governmental transparency and improving interfaith efforts and race relations.

Working together we will continue to protect and defend our homeland, while upholding the promises of  the Constitution, including respect for civil liberties, a commitment to religious freedom and honor for the diversity of the American people.

 
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