THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Columbus, Ohio) ______________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release February 15, 1994
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO MEMBERS OF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMUNITY
Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy London, Ohio
12:25 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Ray Skeltor (phonetic), for that introduction and, even more important, for your personal endorsement of community policing. I'm glad to be here with John Lenhardt (phonetic) and Greg Merritt and my longtime friend, Attorney General Lee Fisher. I thank him for what he said and for the work he is doing with all of you here in Ohio with Operation Crackdown and with many other anticrime initiatives.
I thank Senator Glenn and Senator Biden for coming down here. Senator Biden doesn't represent Ohio, except he represents all the law enforcement people in Ohio as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and I appreciate him taking a whole day off from this break and coming down and being with Senator Glenn and me and being here with your Congresswoman Deborah Pryce. The three of them will have to vote to produce a crime bill that will deal with the issues I came here to discuss with you today.
I also want to say a special word of appreciation to all the state officials who have come out either here or at the airport, and to Ron Noble, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury who came down with me. He has a lot to do with not only the Secret Service, who are my law enforcement detail -- that's a job in itself from time to time -- but also with the work we're doing to try to stiffen the regulations on gun dealers. I want to say a little more about that in a moment.
And finally, let me thank the leaders of the police associations who are here -- the FOP president Dewey Stokes, from Ohio; the head of the National Association of Police Officers, Bob Scully, who came down with us; and your state FOP president Steve Young. I thank all of them.
I came here today because your work, all of you who are in law enforcement, is probably more important to most Americans today than it has ever been in the whole history of the country. We know what crime and violence is doing to our people. The good news is that they know what it's doing to them and they really want us to do something about it. And maybe for the first time, the American people are willing to do their part, too.
This is a moment of great hope and opportunity for America. Everywhere I go it's what people want to talk to me about. The other day I flew into Shreveport, Louisiana, and the front page of the newspaper had a letter that a teenage girl had written to me. So she came out to meet me at the airport -- this young girl. And her letter said this: "If I could meet the President, I would ask him to make his top priority crime. Crime is so bad I'm afraid to go outside. I really didn't pay attention to crime until someone shot and killed my friend who was one of my church members. My concern is," -- listen to this -- "My concern is I won't have anyone to marry because all the nice young men will have been killed, incarcerated, or in a gang. If I could give only one gift to America and the world, it would be no guns, no killing, just peace."
Over the weekend, four people were shot and a little girl was killed in an apartment complex in Bucyrus (phonetic), not too far from here. This morning I met the widow and the father of Officer Chris Klietz of the Columbus Police Department who was killed in the line of duty. I met a 14-year old girl named Sarah Johnson from Cleveland who saw a friend of hers being beaten by three juveniles and two adults, and she ran into the crowd and threw herself on the body of her friend; unfortunately, too late to save his life. Too bad no adults would follow her example --maybe the child would be living today.
I met a woman named Anne Ross from Dayton, whose life has been threatened repeatedly because she began a program called Ravenwood 2000 that works with police to close crack houses in her neighborhood -- something the attorney general has worked so hard on. I met a man named Jim Johnson, who's from the Driving Park area of East Columbus, who's devoting much of his life now to crime patrols and helping citizens work with police officers to reduce the crime rate.
In the last three decades, violent crimes have increased by 300 percent. Over the last three years, almost a third of Americans have either had themselves or someone in their families victimized by crime. Yesterday was the 65th anniversary of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago, which captured the entire nation's attention. The country was riveted by the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. Some of you may be old enough to remember it as children; I have seen movies about it. It absolutely galvanized the nation. In 1929, seven people were killed -- that was a massacre in 1929. In most cities today, it's a normal weekend.
What are we going to do about this? Here is what our administration is trying to do. First, we want a drug strategy that gets hard-core drug users who cause most of the drug-related crime off the streets, out of crime and into treatment. Second, we want a tough, smart crime bill that puts 100,000 more police officers on the street and violent criminals behind bars. Third, we want to use every resource at our disposal to fight crime and drugs from public schools to public housing. Fourth, we want to give our young people something to say yes to, by putting hope and opportunity back in their lives. And, finally, we want to challenge every American to work with you, the law enforcement community, as partners; to put the values of work and family and community back at the center of the lives of our young people before it is too late for them.
I care a lot about this problem. The first elected job I ever had was as attorney general of my home state. I was a governor for a dozen years. I know what it means to double the prison capacity of a state, and to sign laws toughening crimes, and to carry out the death penalty, to add to the stock of police officers and try to deal with all the problems that are facing them. I know this is a tough problem. I also know it is a complicated one. It's easy to demagogue, easy to talk about, and quite another thing to do something that will make a fundamental difference in the lives of the people of this country.
You have to help us to do something that is tough, but that is also smart; something that will actually make a difference to every one of you when you get up in the morning and you put on your uniform and you put on your weapon and you go out and put your life on the line -- you need to work with us to make sure that what we do makes a difference to you and to what you're doing; that it's not just another bunch of political speeches that sound good and score 90 percent in the polls, but may not make a difference. You need to make sure we make a difference.
The purpose of all public service -- your work and mine -- should be to get people together and to get something done. That is what we are trying to do here. (Applause.)
First of all, it's clear that to reduce crime significantly in America we have to reduce hard-core drug use. Last year our Drug Policy Director -- last week our Drug Policy Director Lee Brown, who was the Chief of Police in Houston, Atlanta, and New York, and one of the pioneers of the community policing concept that Patrolman Skeltor talked so eloquently about, announced, along with me, our strategy on drug control and drug abuse. It focuses on hard-core drug use because that's the worst part of the problem.
Heavy users can -- just for example -- heavy users are about 20 percent of all cocaine users, but they consume twothirds of the available cocaine. And more than 50 percent of the people arrested for crimes now test positive for drugs. We have got to get these hard-core users off the street. But those who are going to be back on the street we have got to get them into treatment. We want to help them get the treatment they need, but if they don't get the message we have to use the courts, the jails, the prisons to make sure they do. Our budget and the crime bill, if they both pass, will help us to get another 140,000 hard-core drug users into substantial treatment programs that have a chance to work per year. (Applause.)
There are two other things that we have emphasized. First of all, there is a disturbing bit of evidence in this last year that casual drug use among young people is beginning to rise again. And we have to get the message out to them. The only policy to follow is no use. Drugs are dangerous. Drugs are illegal. It cannot become acceptable among young people to use drugs again. We have got to send the message out loud and clear.
We know the most powerful tool we have over the long run is changing the whole culture in America. I don't know how many of you have been active in the DARE program, but when my daughter was in the 5th grade I heard her and her classmates give me no less than 10 speeches about the officer that came on a regular basis in the DARE program. It makes a difference whether kids are told early and clearly by someone they really respect that the only sensible policy is no use.
And finally, we're going to try to alter our policy relating to controlling the supply of drugs coming into this country. We spend a lot of time trying to patrol our borders. We spend a lot of time trying to patrol the high seas. We want to spend more money, more resources and more efforts going after the drug dealers and the drug kingpins in their home countries. They come after us at home; we should go after them at home. (Applause.)
The drug strategy must work with the crime bill. And the most important message I have to say to you again today is we need your help to pass a crime bill that makes a difference.
Last summer I stood with police officers and leaders of police associations, along with Senator Biden as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee and the longtime strongest, most consistent proponent of getting a new crime bill, to propose a comprehensive plan to put more police on the streets, more criminals behind bars, and to do more than we'd ever done before to prevent crime. Just before Thanksgiving, as Lee Fisher said, the Congress passed the Brady Bill, which requires a five-day waiting period before purchasing a handgun so we can check into criminal records.
Meanwhile, in the Senate Senator Biden introduced our anticrime bill, working with the Attorney General and with members in both parties of the Senate. It went through the
Senate and it provides, among other things, for another 100,000 police officers on the street, for a ban on assault weapons, for an enormous increase in the investment that the federal government makes to the states for alternatives to imprisonment, like boot camps for young people, and more help for states -- it's a big deal in Ohio -- to deal with prison overcrowding and for some other things that I'll talk more about in a minute. It's a very good bill.
In the House, there were important parts of the program which were adopted, but the House has not yet succeeded in passing all the elements of the crime bill so that the Senate and House can then get together, agree on a common bill, pass it and send it to me for signature.
The American people have waited on this bill long enough. It was almost passed -- or a previous version of it --in 1992, and it didn't pass. This bill needs to be passed, on my desk for signature soon. This is not something we should take all year doing. We should take a few weeks, do it right and send it to the President's desk. (Applause.)
I'll make this commitment -- if Congress will pass the bill soon, I will respond by cutting through the red tape and the bureaucracy in Washington so that within a year 20,000 new police officers are hired and start the training that they need to make our streets safer. (Applause.) We need some clear things in the crime bill that come out of both the Senate and the House.
What's the bottom line? One, we've got to have a stronger police presence, not only to catch criminals, but to prevent crime. The Senate's approved and the House should approve another 100,000 police officers over the next five years. It will be paid for not by new taxes, but through a violent crime trust fund that will pay for the entire crime bill through reductions in the federal bureaucracy -- reductions by attrition. We have proposed to reduce the number of federal employees over the next five years by 252,000. That's a 12-percent reduction. It would make the federal government the smallest it's been in 30 years and take the entire amount of money we get from the savings and put it into fighting crime. I think it's a good swap. (Applause.)
But if we do it, then it's important that the local departments do what Ray Skeltor (phonetic) talked about. We've got to have more police officers on the street; people who know their neighbors and know the children and understand when there are problems, and listen to people when there's a stranger in the neighborhood, and do things that are necessary to keep crime from happening in the first place as well as to catch criminals quicker. We know that works. We know that works.
The Mayor of Houston was recently reelected with 91 percent of the vote. You can't get 91 percent of the people to agree that the sun's coming up tomorrow morning. (Laughter.) Why? Because he put another 655 police officers on the street and in one year -- 15 months -- crime dropped 22 percent and the murder rate dropped 27 percent. Why? Because the police officers did two things -- they got back in touch with the community and they were heavily deployed toward the areas where they knew the biggest problems would be. We can do this. We can do this. We'll provide the people; you have to deploy them properly. But we can do it. (Applause.)
Now, once again, this is an issue where the people may be ahead of Washington. We've got a smaller program that the Attorney General runs that the Congress has provided for us to put more police officers on the street. It's a grant program, and communities of all sizes all across America apply for it. We have given out 100 grants to cities and communities nationwide, including four in Ohio -- to Cleveland, Mansfield, Newark and Zenia. Now, that's the good news. The bad news is, we have received applications from 3,000 communities. And instead of making people happy, every time -- because there's so much focus on this at the grass roots -- every time we announce these grants I get 10 calls from mayors saying, I helped you in 1992. I've got a problem. Where's my money? The answer is, your money is in the crime bill. Help us pass it, so we can help all of America and not just a few. (Applause.)
Second, the crime bill stiffens penalties. It does add capital punishment for a number of crimes and some of them are quite appropriate. When someone kills a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, I think the penalty for that ought to be death. There ought to be a deterrent that is clear and unambiguous. (Applause.)
But even more significant perhaps is the concept that is now sweeping America that is known under the slogan, "Three strikes and you're out." And I want to talk about it because I support it. A significant percentage of the violent crimes in this country are done by a very small percentage of the total criminal population. Most criminals are nonviolent -- most criminals who commit violent offenses are not committing lifethreatening offenses or rape. We know that. We know that there are a core of people who are predisposed to do things which are horrible, and that is the genesis of the "three strikes and you're out." If people cannot stop doing things that threaten other people's lives, they simply shouldn't be eligible for parole.
Now, the important thing about this is, if we're going to pass it in the Congress we ought to do it right. There should be no partisanship in this, no politics, no posturing. We ought to do what is right for America. We ought to pass a tough, good, clear bill, but we shouldn't litter it up with every offense in the world that the average police officer will tell you in the front end shouldn't be part of it. In other words, we need to draw this properly and right so we can set a standard that says three strikes and you're out, and it means something that every American can agree with.
And then we have to recognize, as all of you know, that most laws -- criminal laws --are state laws and most criminal law enforcement is done by local police officials; and therefore, we have to hope that what we do in the Congress will set a standard that all other states then across the country will embrace -- so we can identify the relatively small number of people that are wreaking heartbreak and devastation and death and put them behind bars and keep them there. (Applause.)
When we do that we also have to help you with more space for dealing with some of your prison problems. And we are debating what the best way to do about that is. I want to say, on the way down here today, Senator Glenn gave me a speech -- I could tell he'd given it before, but it still was good -- (laughter) -- about the Ohio prison overcrowding problem and how we ought to have nonviolent offenders and less expensive construction.
He said, "You know, when I was a Marine, a quonset hut was good enough for me, and it ought to be good enough for criminals as well." I think that's -- (applause.) Because I was a governor and an attorney general I could write you a book on the cost of building penitentiaries and what's wrong with it, but I won't do that today.
The fourth thing we need to do is to make sure the criminals are not better-armed than police officers. We ought to pass the assault weapons ban. The Senate bill that your other senator who is not here today -- Senator Metzenbaum -- has worked so hard on bans the manufacture, transfer and possession of deadly military-style assault weapons, and large-capacity ammunition-feeding devices. These weapons have become the weapons of choice for drug traffickers, street gangs, and paramilitary extremists groups.
Just ask the leaders of the police organizations that are here -- ask Bob Scully and Dewey Stokes what they know about this as a national problem, not just an Ohio problem -- as a national problem. The leaders of the police organizations in this country have told Congress time and time again until they're blue in the face that these weapons cannot be allowed on the street; that it is wrong to send police officers out to fight people who are better armed than they are. This has nothing to do with sportsmanship. (Applause.)
Now, the fifth thing we need to do is to make our schools gun-free, drug-free and violence-free. If kids can't go to school safe, this country cannot move into the 21st century in good shape. (Applause.)
It sounds like a simple thing, but there have been schools in this country where people do bullet drills. There are -- I met at one of my town meetings in California -- this really eloquent young man stood up and said, "My brother and I, we don't want to be in a gang. We don't want to have guns. We don't want to do wrong. We want to stay in schools and make something of ourselves. And we left the school in our neighborhood because it wasn't safe. We went to another school because we thought it was safer, and a nut walked in that school when we were registering, shooting a gun, and shot my brother standing right in front of me to register for school."
There are hundreds of stories like this, all over America. We have got to make the schools safe. Our bill allocates $300 million over three years for local schools and communities for safe-school projects; up to a third of it can be used for metal detectors, school police, or security measures; the rest to provide alcohol and drug education counseling for youngsters who are victims of violence and activities to get young people to stay out of gangs.
You know, we've got to put basic recreation and a spirit of teamwork and working together back into a lot of these schools. There are a lot of schools in America today where there is nothing for these kids to do anymore, where all the tough financial problems have found their way into just taking out things that would give the kids something they can do.
I've said this many times, but if you think about it, all of us are part of gangs, we just need to be in good gangs. We all have a need to be a part of something. The local police force is a gang. If you're on a bowling team, it's a gang. Right? Your church is a group of people that think like you do. I mean, people are social animals; they have to be part of something. And we have to do that.
And the final thing I want to say is there is lots of evidence that young people can be taught to find ways that are nonviolent to resolve their conflicts and their frustrations. They can do that. We have run across at least one school in the last year that had a wonderfully successful program for reducing violence, and it had to be suspended after a year because someone had given them $3,000 to bring in someone to run the program and they didn't continue the gift. We ought to be able to build that in.
If we know you've got kids coming out of difficult circumstances, every school that needs to do it should have someone who is trained who can teach kids how to find nonviolent ways to deal with their frustrations and resolve their conflicts. (Applause.)
Another thing that's in this crime bill that's been a cause for Senator Biden I wanted to mention is that it makes a special effort to prevent crimes of violence against women, who are especially vulnerable to violent crime. This crime bill increases sentences for rape, requires rapists to pay damages to victims, protects women against domestic violence and creates training programs to help judges learn more about this because a lot of judges don't know how to handle these things as well as possible. You haven't read much about this, but this provision dealing with crimes against women I think is one of the more important things in the crime bill over the long run. We have got to be more sensitive to this. (Applause.)
Again let me say, finally, we have to do more to prevent crime. There have got to be more things done that provide alternatives for kids. This crime bill has summer youth activities, recreation programs in high-crime areas and afterschool programs. We need to do more on that.
This year the National Service Program that I worked so hard to start has 3,000 young people going out all across America in their communities to work on trying to give young people something to do that will prevent crime; a summer of safety in service to America. I'm very proud of it; we need more of that all across the country.
Now, let me say, I know the crime bill won't solve all the problems, but it will make a beginning. Our HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, have a Safe Homes initiative in public housing projects. The Treasury Secretary is tightening up on federal licensing of firearms dealers. There are more gun dealers in America than there are people running filling stations -- or something I know more about -- people who own McDonald's. (Laughter.) You laugh about it, but that's stunning, isn't it? It's stunning. And we have to do something about it.
We are doing what we can to try to deal with it. We also recognize that crime is highest in areas where families are weakest, communities are weakest and where there are the fewest jobs. We know that. We know that a lot of these problems move in, almost pulled in by the vacuum created by the breakdown of family, community and work. And we have some strategies designed to encourage the business community in this country to invest in putting people back to work in these areas where chronic unemployment is so high. (Applause.)
America, out of its generosity, has spent a lot of your money in the last 10 to 15 years trying to get American businesses to invest in the Caribbean, to invest in the developing world, to give people a chance to grow in the idea that it was good for our long-term self-interest; that if these people had jobs and incomes, they would buy more American products. In America's cities today and in our devastated rural areas, there are people who would love to buy American products if they had the jobs. We ought to have the same policy for them we do for countries abroad. (Applause.)
The last thing I'd like to say is, we need help. We need you to help us pass the crime bill. But we also need the American people to recognize that you cannot do this alone. The most law-abiding societies are not necessarily those with the biggest police forces; they are those that have the strongest families, the strongest values, the strongest code of conduct against hurting their neighbors. We need help. And every American that is willing to support this crime bill and stand up and shout, hallelujah, when more police officers are hired on the street needs to be not only law-abiding, but law-supporting.
Every American can be part of a crime control unit. Every American can be part of doing something in the neighborhood school to help those kids who don't have parents to teach them right from wrong. Most of them are still real good kids and they're doing the best they can early on, and they need help. Every American can do something to restore these values.
And let me say, when I see what has happened in the crime area -- three times as many murders today as in 1960, three times as many violent crimes per police officer as there were 30 years ago, and three times as many births outside marriage -- where there has never been a marriage -- also related to the ultimate crime problem, I realize that a lot of these things are going to require the American people to get together and get something done.
They can't just look at you. They can't just look at me. They can't just look at your members of Congress. We have to look inside, too. Yes, there's a role for the Congress; yes, there's a role for the police. But there's a role for the American people, too. You can't make me believe that we can't take our streets back and give our kids their futures back. And we're going to do our best, starting with the crime bill. We want you to help us.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END12:56 P.M. EST