THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN ANNOUNCEMENT OF TOP COP
Great Hall The Justice Department
2:28 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Chief Brann, for your remarks and your commitment. We're delighted to have you and your fine family here and on board.
Chief Sanders, thank you for your remarks and for your work. To General Reno and to Director and former Chief Brown, and Deputy Attorney General, the Associate Attorney General; to the members of Congress who are here, and the mayors, and other leaders of people who will benefit from this work that is being done. This is a very happy day for the people of the United States.
I ran for President because I wanted to restore the American Dream and bring this country together as we move into the 21st century. And there were three sort of slogans that, from time to time, I used to try to capture what I thought we ought to be about. One was "Putting people first," restore the values of middleclass America. The other was, "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow," which basically means we're hurtling into the future at a rapid rate and we better prepare for it. The third was the idea that we needed a covenant in this country, not just a deal but a covenant -- a solid agreement that we would attempt in the government to provide more opportunity, but that the citizens of America would assume more personal responsibility for themselves, their families; and then, in the process we would build the American community again.
We can't do any of that if the people of this country feel afraid on their streets, in their homes and in their schools. And we are taking a stand against that. But we're also doing it in a way that reenforces our commitment to thinking about the future and the need for people to assume more personal responsibility -- all of us.
When I had the honor of addressing the nation last Thursday night, and I was able to outline the Middle Class Bill of Rights, which will be at the center of our agenda when the Congress comes back -- to give people the opportunity to invest in their children's education, in the raising of their children, in savings so that the money will be there if it's needed for health care or caring for a parent or preparing for future education -- I said that we were going to do that not by increasing the government deficit or raising taxes, but by reducing the size of government, by paying for it.
The deficit of this country quadrupled in the 12 years before I became President, and I want you to think about this when you make out your income tax check in April: 28 cents of every dollar you pay to us next April will go to pay for the interest run up on the debt accumulated between 1981 and January of 1993.
So, today, the Vice President and I announced some dramatic changes in reductions in the federal government, cutting yesterday's government so we could invest in tomorrow's community empowerment, through the Middle Class Bill of Rights. But the first example of doing that is what we're here to celebrate today -- the crime bill. Cut and invest.
We did not raise the deficit a penny to pay for the crime bill. We did not raise taxes a penny to pay for the crime bill. The Congress supported a reduction in the federal government to its smallest size in 30 years so that we could put these 100,000 police on the street. That is an example of what the government should be doing to exercise its responsibility to give people at the community level and law enforcement and the local leaders the power they need to move forward.
I'd like to say that I'm very proud of everything that was in that crime bill. I'm proud of the 100,000 police. I'm proud of the punishment and the prevention. I believe in three strikes and you're out, and I believe in trying to keep kids from making the first strike. And I think most law enforcement people do, as well. And I believe that those of you who live and work in our communities, know best what your problems are, and can best solve them.
One of the things that I learned as a governor for a dozen years is that we really do need national leadership in many areas, but when it comes to deciding exactly how to solve problems, and how to seize opportunities, there's very little I can do in Washington, D.C. that will solve the problems that Chief Sanders deals with in San Diego, except to give him the tools to do the job. That is the ultimate decision that the Congress made in the crime bill.
I want to say a special words of thanks to Chief Brann for agreeing to come all the way across the country to the most regularly condemned city in America -- Washington, D.C. -- to do this job. He was selected in part because he believed in community policing. And you heard that today.
One of the new ideas that I came across as I travel the country was this whole idea of community policing, not just as a device for patrolling the streets, but as the Chief said, as a philosophy of law enforcement. And it makes so much sense. You've already heard that we have now put about 10,000 of our 100,000 police officers in process to be on the street. And we're going to keep going until it's all done.
Today we have over 600 jurisdictions in our country who are going to get police officers: over 300 in Chicago; almost 50 in San Diego -- that's not why the chief came here to brag on this, though; he really believes in it. Almost 100 in Detroit; nearly 80 in Baltimore; over 150 in Philadelphia.
Not long ago, I received a letter jointly signed by the mayor and the police chief of Odessa, Texas. That was one of the first cities to receive community policing money from the crime bill. They told me that since they began to institute aggressive community policing, serious crimes have dropped 43 percent -- fewer murders; fewer rapes; fewer robberies; fewer assaults. I say this to make this point: One of the things that I saw happening out in America when this crime bill was being debated in Congress is that the American people one day would wake up and they would cheer the Congress for trying to deal with crime. And then someone would raise a question about this effort or that effort or the other effort, and their cynicism would rise up because they said, oh, the crime rate has been going up for 30 years and it's terrible and it's never going to get any better and nobody can do anything about it.
That is wrong. The crime rate can go down, just as it came up. And we are committed to taking it down. Ultimately, the purpose of the crime bill is to give people at the grass roots the power to lower the crime rate; not to hire more police, to have fewer crimes. That is the purpose of what we are doing. And it can happen. It's happened in Odessa, Texas. It's happened in a lot of big cities around this country. It can happen all over America.
I know that members of this new Congress have some ideas about fighting crime; I welcome those ideas. I ask them only to remember that we should do what was done in the last Congress: listen to the people in law enforcement; listen to the people in community organizations; listen to the people at the grass-roots level who know how to catch criminals, but who also know how to prevent crime and lower the crime rate. If we listen to people at the grass-roots level and enlist ourselves as your supporters, then we can continue to make progress on crime.
But I also have to say that I don't think we should turn back on the progress we have made. We shouldn't give up on this community policing program. We ought to keep going until there are 100,000 more police on the street. And I'm going to do my dead-level best to make sure we don't turn back. (Applause.)
I'm going to come up with plenty of budget cuts. But we shouldn't cut the money that Lee Brown and people all over America need for drug prevention, drug education, drug treatment, things to lower the problem of drugs so we can lower the crime rate in that way. We shouldn't do that. (Applause.)
And even though we did not have a majority in both parties for the Brady Bill, and we certainly didn't have a majority in both parties for the assault weapons ban last time, I think we ought to leave them right where they are. We ought to stay with it, and go forward and implement it. (Applause.)
I think all of you know that there's one thing the skeptics said during the crime bill debate that was right. It wasn't an argument to vote against the crime bill, but it was true. We can pass all these laws, and come up with all this money and all these prohibitions, but if we don't implement it right at the grass-roots level, the crime rate won't go down. That is true. We could have 50 crime bills and a million police officers, and if the American people don't join in the fight, the crime rate won't go down.
So the last thing that I'd like to say is that if community policing is more than a deployment of police officers, and is really a philosophy of law enforcement, it is two words: police and community. That means that neighbors have to help neighbors; parents have to raise kids; that schools have to do things they didn't used to have to do. But if we do this together, then this community policing can be the banner of a safety America. And if we can lower the crime rate again, and make people feel safer on their streets, in their homes, and in their schools, we will begin to see this country coming together as a community again, we will begin to see people believing in our country again, we will begin to see people willing to make sacrifices for the common good again.
For all that all of you have done to that end, I thank you very much. (Applause.)
END2:40 P.M. EST