THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN ANNOUNCEMENT OF POLICE GRANTS The South Lawn
10:50 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, General Reno, for your remarks and your tireless work on this, and for really a brilliant effort on the part of the Justice Department employees to move this grant money only 12 days after the bill became effective out into our communities.
Thank you, Chief Massey, for your testimony and for your work; and I want to thank all your forces. When I was introduced to his community policing recruits, I mean, just look at them, they're going to lower the crime rate by walking the streets. (Laughter.)
I want to thank the other law enforcement officers from Maryland who are up here and all of you who are out in the audience today. I thank the members of Congress who are here -- Congressman Pallone, Congressman Moran, Congresswoman McKinney. And especially I thank Senator Sarbanes for telling me Chief Massey's story a few weeks ago and bringing this whole issue to my attention as an illustration of how we can fight crime and lower the crime rate through community policing.
It was just a month ago that we were here on the South Lawn of the White House to sign the crime bill. We came back today to show determination to implement this law without delay.
I want to make three points, if I might. One is, I think all Americans know that we can never be strong abroad unless we are first strong at home. As we are very proud of the work our armed forces are doing today in Haiti and in the Gulf, we know that they are able to be there doing what they're doing because they come out of a strong, good country with strong basic community ties and values. And our ability to make our people secure is the critical element of personal freedom that rests at the root of our strength as a nation.
The second point I want to say is that we know we've got an issue here we have to deal with and we're determined to hit the ground running. And we want all of you to help us keep hitting the ground running not just now, but over the entire life of this crime bill.
And the last point I want to make has already been made more graphically and powerfully by the story Chief Massey told --this is not a problem that can be fought in Washington, D.C. The genius of this crime bill is that it empowers people at the community level in big cities like San Francisco, whose mayor is represented here today, and in smaller communities like Ocean City, to take control of their own destiny, to drive down the crime rate and to catch criminals. The genius of this bill in the end may be that we really did say, we're going to pay for this by shrinking the size of the federal government and giving every last dollar of the shrinkage to local communities to fight crime to prove that they can bring the crime rate down; not we in Washington, but you out there. This is a
bill which gives you the power to take control of the destinies of your people. And I know that you will do it.
Today we have rejected decades of excuses that crime is a local problem that Washington can do nothing about. However, Washington can do a lot to help you fight crime. And if you look at the crime bill, and the grants for local police, and the prevention programs, and the help to build prison cells for serious offenders, and the supportive work coming out the extra help for federal law enforcement authorities, this is an enormous step forward in a national partnership to help people fight crime at the grass-roots level. We have to prove here in America that we can make progress on this. We have to prove that we can make a difference.
Yesterday I was in Detroit, celebrating the revival of our automobile industry. For the first time in 15 years, it's now clearly number one in the world in sales worldwide. And it's wonderful to see that the biggest problem in Michigan is now how much overtime they have at the auto industry -- a story you wouldn't have heard 10 years ago. But, you build a country the same way you build a company like that. You have to face your problems, face your challenges, get people together, empower people to take control of their own destinies and get after it. And that's what we're trying to do.
After I did the event in Detroit, I went by and met with the editorial board of the Detroit Free Press, and they read a letter that a nine-year-old girl named Portia had written to me and asked to be delivered. And she said, "please, please make me free from fear." That is what we're here about. We can talk about all the details and we can glory in all the specifics, but the bottom line is that we together have made a commitment to make the American people freer of fear.
It is a great tribute to the members of Congress who voted for this bill; a tribute to the Attorney General and all the people who work with her who worked so hard for it; a tribute to all of you, without whom we would not have passed it.
Let me say again that 100,000 police officers is a number that doesn't mean a lot to the average American. Most Americans don't know how many police we have now. They don't know how many that is; they're not sure what it means on their block. There are 550,000 police officers in America today -- 100,000 police is nearly a 20 percent increase. And if they are all put into community policing as they are supposed to be, then it will be at least a 20 percent increase in the effective police presence on the street in the United States. That is the message we need to get out to the American people, so they can imagine what this means. This is something of profound magnitude; not only in catching criminals, but as every officer here will tell you, in reducing the rate of crime in the first place by deterring crime, by the simple, effective presence of community policing.
I am very, very proud of all of you for your support. I am very proud of Chief Massey for coming here to tell this story.
I want to emphasize one other thing that the Attorney General said before I close. The more we got into this problem, the more we realize that big city crime was going down in some cities, but that the inevitable consequence was that it was being exported to smaller towns and rural areas nearby; that, as many of our larger cities perfected their capacity to do community policing and to drive down the crime rates, was actually putting inordinate pressure on the smaller towns who were in the vicinity.
And one of the things we were absolutely determined to do is to make sure -- I might add, with the support of all the big city mayors -- that this would not simply be a big city bill. So now, as you know, we have already put out over 2,000 police officers in 250 different communities of all sizes in the country, and the Attorney General gave you the figures on what we're doing today. I can assure you that over the life of this crime bill, we will not lose focus on the fact that crime is a problem for all Americans in all size communities. Four hundred communities today, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of more to follow.
So I ask all of you now as we leave this place, not only to celebrate what we have done, but to redouble our efforts. We're getting off to a quick start. We're making our country strong at home, just like we have to be strong abroad, and we know that it starts at the grass-roots level. This is something Washington has done to give you the power to change the future of your communities, so that all the little Portia in this country can think they are truly free.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END11:00 A.M. EDT