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Secretary Napolitano's Remarks To The International Association Of Chiefs Of Police (IACP)

Release Date: 
October 25, 2011

Chicago, Illinois
(Remarks as Prepared)

Thanks for the introduction, and thank you all for the warm welcome. It's great to be here today, and great to be back with the IACP.

I've had the chance to meet with many of you over the past year – and not just police chiefs but also many front line officers and other members of the IACP.

It's always good to stand before this audience … because you are one of our most steadfast partners in protecting the United States from the many threats we face.

The IACP and the Department of Homeland Security have a long history together … one that goes back to the creation of DHS in 2003, but also extends to many of the legacy agencies that came together to form the department.

IACP has both informed and strengthened many of the programs and initiatives we have put in place since 9/11 to keep our nation safe – from our efforts to improve the sharing of information, to making our grant programs more effective, to developing better technology for police and first responders.

In each area, we have learned from you, relied on your experience and expertise, and partnered with you to make our nation stronger, improve our ability to identify and address threats, and pave the way for our continued success.

We've also listened to you and made changes when something wasn't right or we needed to take action to address a specific concern.

For example, we recently filled a critical position at DHS that I know is important to IACP members – our Assistant Secretary for State and Local Law Enforcement.

We're proud to have Lou Quijas now leading this office. He is well known to IACP, having worked closely with you during his time overseeing the FBI Office of Law Enforcement Coordination.

And as the former Chief of Police of High Point, North Carolina, and a 25 year veteran of law enforcement in Kansas City, Missouri, he understands the needs and perspective of our nation's police officers.

I know he is committed – as I am – to strengthening our partnership not just with IACP, but ALL law enforcement, at all levels.

And I'd also just add that we're extremely proud that IACP will soon be taking one of our own as your new Executive Director.

We're certainly sad to see Bart Johnson depart DHS, but we know he will welcomed with open arms at IACP and be a tremendous asset.

So today, as I come back before you now for the third time in my tenure as Secretary, I'd like to spend some time discussing the progress we've made to achieve these and many other shared goals, and where we hope to go in the future in the face of evolving threats.

This includes, among other things, making sure that frontline law enforcement personnel across the United States have the tools, training, and resources you need to do your jobs safely and effectively.

And that is why both President Obama and Vice President Biden have been talking to Americans across the country about the importance of supporting the men and women who protect our country … our police officers and first responders … by urging Congress to pass the American Jobs Act.

When I became Secretary of Homeland Security three years ago, one of the first priorities I set was to deepen our partnership with law enforcement at all levels. That meant:

  • Improving how we communicate and share information;
  • Enhancing the kind of federal resources and support we provide through grants, training, and other means;
  • Strengthening our analytic capabilities so we have better awareness of new and emerging threats.
  • Improving how we work together to identify and address public safety threats, including criminal aliens and others in our country illegally … and I know ICE Director John Morton will be speaking with you about our progress in this area.
  • And strengthening how we work together before, during, and after incidents and emergencies.

Three years ago, we began this journey together, to dramatically change the way that DHS works with state, tribal, local, and international law enforcement to protect our communities, our infrastructure, and the public from terrorism and homeland security threats.

And we began this journey because we know that today's threats are not the same as they were ten years ago. They have evolved significantly:

Today we face a threat environment where violent extremism is not defined or contained by international borders. Today, we have to address threats that are homegrown as well as those that originate abroad.

What we are seeing now in some cases reflects a conscious effort by terrorists to recruit people who are already in the United States.

This threat of homegrown violent extremism fundamentally changes who is positioned to spot, investigate, and respond to terrorist activity.

More and more, state and local law enforcement officers are likely to be in a position to notice early signs of terrorist activity. And this has profound implications for how we go about securing our country against the terrorist threat.

Over the past three years, DHS has worked with IACP and law enforcement and community-based organizations to counter violent extremism at its source, using many of the same techniques and strategies that have proven successful in combating violence in American communities.

We also have been focused on getting resources and information out of Washington, D.C. and into the hands of state and local law enforcement, to provide you with the tools you need to combat threats in our communities.

Our homeland security efforts must be interwoven in the police work that you do every day, and that law enforcement officers everywhere must have a clear understanding of the tactics, behaviors, and other indicators that could point to terrorist activity.

As a result, we have fundamentally changed the way that the Department provides information to law enforcement.

To begin with, in April, we replaced the color-coded alert system, created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, with the new National Terrorism Advisory System, or NTAS.

This new system will provide timely, detailed information to the public and the private sector, as well as to state, local, and tribal governments about credible terrorist threats and recommended security measures.

NTAS alerts will be issued in addition to the regular intelligence and information bulletins that we share with law enforcement so that you have an awareness and understanding of national threat reporting and can take appropriate action.

We also have worked to build greater analytic capability through the fusion centers, resulting in an unprecedented capability at the state and local levels.

We have supported the development of fusion centers through grants, training, and deployment of federal personnel.

We will soon have a DHS intelligence officer deployed to every single fusion center – today we have 64 intelligence officers working side by side with their state and local counterparts.

Sixty one fusion centers also can now receive classified and unclassified threat information through the Homeland Secure Data Network, or HSDN.

We are working to ensure that every fusion center has a set of core capabilities that includes the ability to conduct risk assessments, and to share information among federal authorities so we can identify emerging national threats.

Over the past three years, we also have transformed how we train frontline officers regarding suspicious activities through the Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, or SAR.

The SAR initiative trains state and local law enforcement to recognize behaviors and indicators related to terrorism, crime and other threats. It standardizes how those observations are documented and analyzed; and expands and enhances the sharing of those reports.

More than 160,000 law enforcement officers have now received SAR training, and more are getting trained every week. This has been a significant undertaking, and I want to thank IACP for its role in this effort.

And in addition to SAR training, we're also continuing to provide a range of training to law enforcement through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, or FLETC.

Last year, FLETC trained nearly 22,000 state, local, and tribal law enforcement personnel in addition to the international training that it provides throughout the world. I know we have FLETC staff here today, so I want to encourage you to learn more from them about some of the innovative training being offered right now.

We also have embarked together on an aggressive public awareness campaign, recognizing that an engaged and vigilant public is vital to our efforts to protect our communities from violence, including that resulting from terrorism.

Through the nationwide expansion of the "If You See Something, Say Something™" campaign, we are encouraging Americans to alert local law enforcement if they see something that is potentially dangerous.

Over the past year, we've expanded this campaign to federal buildings, transit systems, major sports and entertainment venues, some of our nation's largest retailers, as well as many law enforcement partners.

Indeed, this campaign is successful because of local law enforcement, and I want to thank those of you who have become partners on this initiative. We are hope there are opportunities to partner with more of you in the coming months and years.

We have continued to see the value of public awareness and the importance of having suspicious activities quickly forwarded to the JTTFs for investigation time and again.

Indeed, it was an alert street vendor in Times Square that helped thwart an attempted attack in May 2010 by reporting a suspicious vehicle to law enforcement.

In January of this year, alert city workers in Spokane, Washington, reported a suspicious backpack and prevented what almost certainly would have been a deadly bombing along a busy parade route.

More recently, a store employee in Killeen, Texas reported the suspicious behavior of one of his customers to authorities, potentially averting another deadly attack at the Fort Hood Army Base.

Together, we also have continued to build our capabilities to deal with new and emerging threats, whether they come from violent extremists or criminal organizations along our borders.

We are implementing a Countering Violent Extremism curriculum for state and local law enforcement that is focused on community-oriented policing, which will help frontline personnel identify activities that are indicators of potential terrorist activity and violence.

With local communities and the Department of Justice, we have published guidance on best practices for community partnerships to prevent and mitigate homegrown threats.

And we have issued, and continue to release, unclassified case studies that examine recent incidents involving terrorism so all of us can better understand the warning signs that could indicate a developing terrorist attack.

Taken together, these steps provide a strong foundation that all of us can all use to protect communities from terrorism and other threats.

And this new homeland security architecture will be paired with our efforts to better understand the risk confronting the homeland, to engage and partner with the international community, and to protect the privacy rights, civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans.

We have made extraordinary progress these past three years to change how we work together – how we share information, how we train together and build new capabilities, how we identify and address threats, and how we enhance public safety.

We're proud of this work and grateful for your partnership in these efforts. But also know our work is not yet done.

We have in a sense entered a new phase of our journey – in that we must complete this work while at the same time recognize that we are entering the most challenging budgetary environments in modern history.

Indeed, we know that many police departments and first responders across our country are facing some tough economic challenges. Many of you have had to let go of officers, or had difficulty hiring or retaining personnel.

Yet together we will still need to address the threats of today and of the future.

The tough choices we're all facing should not come at the expense of public safety or national security. President Obama has urged Congress to take action to prevent layoffs of teachers, cops and first responders, and keep our communities safe by passing the American Jobs Act.

The American Jobs Act provides $5 billion in assistance to states and local communities to create or save thousands of police and first responder jobs across the country.

We are strongly committed to continuing to support law enforcement and first responders – to protect those who protect us.

We're going to continue to fight for passage of this legislation – because protecting your jobs is essential to a secure and resilient nation, and we can't afford to put public safety at risk.

So I want to thank you for your continued partnership and everything you're doing in your states and cities and communities to contribute to a safer America and to this new homeland security architecture that we have built over the past three years, working together at every level.

I look forward to coming back here next year to talk about all the great work we've accomplished this year. Thank you.

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