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Remarks prepared for delivery.
Thank you, Shannon, for that kind introduction, and for the opportunity to speak to you all today.
Good morning, everyone. I’m honored to join my peers on this panel. I’ve really enjoyed hearing your insightful remarks, so thank you.
Today I’ll talk about the challenges we all face in law enforcement, from the FBI’s perspective.
We at the Bureau are very aware of the day-in, day-out dangers that your officers, our agents, and other law enforcement officers encounter.
And I’ll go into all of that in just a minute.
But first I want to invite you to go back in history to the early 1970s. Back then, our nation was in the final stages of the Vietnam War, the U.S. economy was about to hit stagnation, and the Watergate scandal was around the corner. In short, it was a tumultuous time for our country.
And it was an eventful time for the FBI. On May 12, 1972, 50 years ago next month, FBI Acting Director L. Patrick Gray announced that for the first time ever, the FBI would open the special agent position to women applicants.
That announcement ended a long era of policies that excluded women and barred them from serving as agents. By the end of that year, the FBI would welcome a total of 11 women agents.
And so began an era of firsts.
Between 1972 and 2001, we saw:
- Our first woman African American agent,
- Our first woman firearms instructor,
- Tragically, our first woman agent killed in the line of duty,
- The first women legal attachés,
- The first woman special agent in charge of a field office, and
- The first women to attain the ranks of assistant director and executive assistant director at Headquarters.
And 50 years on, we’re fortunate to have women heading field offices; leading squads working counterterrorism, cyber, counterintelligence, and major criminal investigations; serving as firearms instructors, bomb techs, and crisis negotiators; and leading FBI offices around the world, and we're so grateful for that.
They are superb agents, who just happen to be women.
Although the FBI has come a long way since that 1972 announcement, the reality is it wasn’t all that long ago. And we’re still working to remove barriers and create a balanced workforce, not just in terms of gender, but all diversity groups.
That’s what I want to start with, because our people are our biggest asset. We’re focused on recruiting and building a diverse workforce—one that reflects all the communities we serve, building the kind of teams that bring the right mix of different perspectives to the table.
Women now make up 45% of our workforce and nearly a quarter of our senior executive positions.
And I’m pleased to report that over the past several years, our special agent applicants have been more diverse than the U.S. population as a whole.
In fact, our classes at Quantico now have more women, more underrepresented minorities, and more people of varied backgrounds and life experiences than ever before.
We’ve also increased our recruiting initiatives at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and are expanding our recruiting focus to other minority-serving institutions.
And we’ve been hard at work improving how we develop, promote, and mentor our folks once they’re onboard.
It’s not all happening overnight, but I’m confident we’re headed in the right direction. I’m proud that the FBI is taking on this important issue, but I know that we can do even better. And we will.
Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because bringing a variety of perspectives together is key to meeting today’s increasingly complex and evolving threats.
One of those threats we’re all concerned about is the rise in violent crime. We’re seeing a disturbing violent crime surge across the country. I know you’re seeing, it too.
There’s gun violence, homicides, and aggravated assaults, and are all occurring at an appalling rate, not to mention hate crimes and the persistent threat posed by violent extremists.
Our 2020 incident-based crime data, which we released late last year, showed us some troubling numbers.
Overall violent crime, which includes not only murder-but also assault, robbery, and rape-rose by more than 5%.
Now to me, percentages can seem abstract, but the actual number is staggering: There were 65,000 additional violent crime incidents in 2020 than there were in 2019. That’s 65,000 more people victimized by violent crime than in the year before. And each one, as we all know, with families, heartbreak, and trauma.
And homicides? Those jumped nearly 30% in 2020 – the largest single-year increase recorded in 50 years.
Today’s violent crime situation is taking the lives of too many innocent people, tearing apart too many communities, and denying too many Americans their basic right to feel safe in their own homes and neighborhoods.
Now I realize I’m preaching to the choir. Because we all know that—at all levels of government—our most fundamental duty is to safeguard people’s right to live without fear of violence.
I can assure you that we at the FBI are using all of our tools and working strategically with agencies like yours to meet that duty. You undoubtedly have thoughts of your own about how we can best do that, and I’m eager to hear them. But I can tell you we’re laser-focused on the hundreds of task forces we sponsor throughout the country.
- More than 50 Violent Crimes Task Forces,
- 175 Safe Streets Gang Task Forces with nearly 2,000 TFOs,
- 22 Safe Trails Task Forces, and
- More than 100 Transnational Organized Crime Task Forces with nearly 600 members.
For some of the cities hit hardest by the recent surge, we’re boosting those efforts by temporarily surging resources to our field offices.
That includes investigative, analytical, and technical resources, as well as experts who embed with FBI personnel and support existing initiatives with our law enforcement partners, to make an immediate, measurable impact on violent crime.
Depending on where they are, the teams might focus on helping to get violent gun offenders off the streets, targeting commercial robbery crews, or taking aim at drug-trafficking gangs and criminal enterprises.
To date we have surged resources to six offices—Buffalo, Milwaukee, Louisville, Memphis, San Juan, and a current deployment in San Francisco.
And collectively, these deployments have nearly 150 arrests and the seizure of over 70 firearms from violent criminals.
And we’re seeing promising trends. During the deployments, homicides decreased by 50% in Buffalo. And in Milwaukee, homicides went down 17%, and non-fatal shootings fell by 28%.
We’re going to continue surging resources like this, and we’ll keep assessing where our support will most help our partners to continue cracking down on violent criminals. Our goal is to make a lasting impact, so our communities are safer places to live and work.
Threats to Law Enforcement
Of course the violent crime threat is not just affecting the communities we serve; it's also making the law enforcement profession more dangerous.
That’s something I know troubles all of us in this room.
Last year 73 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed on the job—the highest single-year number since 9/11. And that doesn’t even count those we lost to COVID or in accidental deaths—those killed while they weren’t on duty, or the scores of officers who were injured but thankfully survived.
Especially troubling is that a record number of those officers killed, nearly half, had no engagement with their assailant before the attack. They were ambushed while sitting in their vehicles, attacked while on patrol, or lured out into the open and killed.
And so far in 2022, 14 more officers have been murdered in the line of duty. Each one of those officers got up one morning and picked up their badge, not knowing they wouldn’t make it home that night.
They did their jobs despite all the hardships they've faced in these especially difficult past few years because they were devoted to protecting their fellow Americans.
There’s many, many other challenges that our agents and officers confront out there. We could go on and on here. But I wanted to just thank all of you, credit you, for the amazing resilience that your departments show every day.
And to assure you that the Bureau is committed to working together to fight the scores of threats we collectively face.
Law enforcement is dangerous enough. Wearing a badge shouldn’t make someone a target.
Keeping our people safe is my highest priority, and I know you feel the same. We’ll keep sounding the alarm, and I ask for your help in raising awareness on the issue, too.
Data Collection Programs
But it’s not enough to spread the word, we also need to fix the problem. And to do that, we need a complete picture of the situation.
We need concrete information and transparency into what’s really going on in our communities—accurate, objective data.
So before I go on, I want to briefly mention the FBI’s data collection programs.
As you may know, we’ve transitioned to the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS. NIBRS is more detailed, provides more comprehensive data, and is more streamlined and easier to use. NIBRS-only reporting has been up and running for over a year, and we’ve got nearly 12,000 law enforcement agencies (63%) reporting their data.
If you're participating, thank you.
And if not, I encourage you to start because by contributing data, you’ll be helping the entire law enforcement community become more informed and intentional in how we approach our work.
The same goes for our Use-of-Force data collection—also a top priority for us.
Our goal is to provide a comprehensive view of the circumstances, subjects, and officers involved in use-of-force incidents nationwide, not to offer insight into single incidents.
I’m happy to say that we’ve now got agencies representing over 60% of law enforcement officers contributing data.
That means in the very near future, we’ll be able to release our first statistics on the use of force, things like the top types of force used and resistance encountered, as well as the overall percentages we’re seeing for kinds of incidents and reasons for initial contact. Once we get to the 80% mark, we’ll be able to share even more data and insight into use-of-force incidents. We can give the public the necessary facts, and, I believe, strengthen our nation’s confidence in law enforcement.
Importance of Partnerships
Sharing data–working to understand our common challenges—is a way for us to work together as one law enforcement community.
And that’s more important now than ever before.
If you take just one thing away from our time together today, it’s this: We at the Bureau firmly believe that to stay ahead of the threats we’re facing, we need to keep doubling down on our partnerships.
It’s not enough to just get along well, as important as that is. We have to go further, to complement one another and be truly integrated. And I see us doing just that, every day.
A few moments ago, I mentioned our violent crime task forces. But we’ve also got Joint Terrorism Task Forces, Cyber Task Forces, and Counterintelligence Task Forces. They’re in every one of our 56 field offices.
Each task force has our agents working side by side with federal, state, and local partners. Those task forces only work because your departments want to work with us and because you send us your best, so thank you for that.
And I want you to know that we value the teamwork between us beyond any specific threat. Our SACs should be picking up the phone, establishing personal relationships with you, and keeping the lines of communication open.
You know, there’s a saying that the best time to patch the roof is when the sun is shining, before the storm. So we’re focused on building relationships with you now, so when there’s a crisis, those connections are already in place.
And if you don’t feel like you have a strong enough relationship with your local FBI office, I want to hear about it, and I want to get that moving in the right direction.
You can also reach out to us through our Office of Partner Engagement, or OPE. OPE maintains our vital relationships with the law enforcement community, including associations like NAWLEE and coordinates closely with fusion centers across the country.
I invite you to take advantage of OPE’s programs, including intelligence training, active shooter training, and the Police Executive Fellowship Program, just to name a few.
And I encourage you to get in touch with your OPE liaison to let us know how we can best support you.
Another priority of ours is to keep information flowing to our partners.
Our goal is to share information from across the spectrum and ensure we’re all working as a team to help identify and stop the threats plaguing our communities.
We want to arm our partners with the best tool there is: intelligence. Last July, the Bureau hosted an Intelligence Sharing Summit for state and local law enforcement leaders from across the country.
Our partners specifically pointed out that our intelligence products related to emerging threats and issues are welcome and useful, and that folks value the unclassified sitreps we disseminate during critical incidents.
They also gave us some valuable feedback on how we can do better, and we’re already using it, so thank you for the honesty and transparency.
We’re continuing to examine our engagement, information sharing processes, intelligence collaboration and dissemination, and best practices, as well as the barriers that make our partnerships less effective than they could be.
We fully intend to implement the lessons we’ve learned to up our game, and I’m looking forward to all of us reaping the benefits of even stronger partnerships and better information sharing.
Before I finish I want to tell you about someone I admire. Last month, the FBI hosted Cathy Lanier, former chief of police at the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, as our guest speaker for Women’s History Month.
Cathy is a longtime friend and partner of the FBI’s, and she’s someone I worked closely with during my time at the Washington Field Office.
I’ve got to tell you, Cathy’s just remarkable. Like those first women special agents and field office leaders I mentioned earlier, Cathy’s also a first.
In 2007, at age 39, after serving as lieutenant, captain, inspector and commander, she became the first woman to be named chief of MPD, one of the nation’s highest-profile police departments.
Not only was she the city’s first woman police chief—and the city’s longest-serving chief—but she and her team were credited with transforming the city, marking a turning point by bringing significant increases in public safety and security to DC.
When she spoke to our workforce last month, she said, “I wanted to change our reputation as the murder capital of the nation, our character, and our tactics. It was clear what had to be done.”
I bring all of this up because that resolve and commitment—hallmarks of Cathy’s leadership style—continue to inspire me.
As chief, Cathy was always on scene, leading from the front, visible, and constantly communicating with and reassuring the public during every incident and every major event. She was hands-on and everywhere all the time.
In my mind, that’s what it takes to protect and serve our communities and to be a good partner. It means asking: How can we do more? How can we be better?
It means sharing more information, strengthening existing partnerships, and establishing new ones, and yes, being everywhere all the time.
I look forward to strong, continued partnerships with all of you, so we can support each other in our important work of keeping America safe.
Thank you for all you do for your agencies and for the American people every day. It’s a privilege to join you here and I hope to see you again very soon.
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