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Prepared Remarks For Acting Secretary Wolf Addressing the Fraternal Order of Police

Release Date: 
September 4, 2020

Thank you, Pat, for that introduction and for your tremendous partnership over the past several months. It has been a pleasure working with you and Jim to keep America safe and to explain to Americans why a nation without its police is no nation at all. And thank you to the entire Fraternal Order of Police for hosting me today. President Trump sends his regards and regrets not being able to be with you this morning. But I could not be more honored to gather with you all in his stead.

As the nation’s largest organization of law enforcement officers, the FOP plays a critical role by giving a voice to the brave men and women in law enforcement who keep our communities safe. The platform and amplification you provide for law enforcement officers is needed now more than ever, as these heroes find themselves under assault from those seeking to defund and dismantle the police.

As the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, the Department of Homeland Security has a special bond with local law enforcement partners dating back to our founding 17 years ago. I am proud to say that our relationship has only grown stronger under President Trump’s leadership, as this Administration has taken bold action to support, equip, and defend our brothers and sisters in blue.

You will find no bigger supporter of the men and women of law enforcement than our Commander-in-Chief. President Trump and this Administration has your back, 100 percent.

We are at a pivotal moment for law enforcement in America. Law enforcement officers are under assault today–it’s that simple. As you are aware, overwhelming majority are patriots that put on the uniform and badge every day to protect their communities and, in doing so, put themselves in harm’s way.

While rioters are trying to destroy federal property and cities across America, there are radicals calling to “Defund the Police.” As some of the nation’s top law enforcement leaders, you all know that these calls are beyond irresponsible, beyond reckless even. Calls to abandon our police only endangers lives.

Each person here today has spent their entire career ensuring law and order is maintained for the good of the country and the preservation of liberty. Our police, sheriffs, federal agents, and other law enforcement officers hold the thin blue line protecting our freedoms from chaos and anarchy.

Sadly, the past few months have given us a grisly picture of what can happen to our communities when local leaders abandon public safety. Cities like Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Kenosha, and others have been subject to riots, chaos, and anarchy – rendering parts of these cities unrecognizable.

As shootings skyrocket in New York City, local officials have agreed on a budget shifting nearly $1 billion of police funding to other agencies. In some cases, local leadership has gone so far as to sell out their citizenry. These leaders, who are sworn to preserve law and uphold order, have intentionally hamstrung their police forces out of misguided political convenience. They have allowed violent rioters to target courthouses, federal monuments, businesses, and police facilities—the very symbols of American justice and prosperity.

Unfortunately, we have already seen the results of what happens when local leaders allow these rioters to run amuck—several communities are now recording spikes in crime the likes of which haven’t been seen in decades.  We’ve seen small businesses reduced to rubble while the media praises the perpetrators as brave “peaceful protestors.” Those businesses that manage to stay open are held hostage to the whims of anarchists and criminals intent on looting and burning their livelihoods to ashes.

This week, a pet store owner in California left a sign on her store front. It read, “Single Mother Owned, Show Mercy, This is all I have.” This isn’t the America many of us recognize. Protecting Americans like this store owner are the reason everyone in this room wears a badge.

We’ve seen federal and local officers physically attacked while politicians claim the violent confrontations are just a form of free speech. And we have witnessed arson and destruction of property only to be told it’s what’s necessary for progress. How can demonizing the very men and women who have sworn to protect a community and allow chaos to reign supreme be good for America? The fact is, these cities have been looted and burned by the very mobs their leaders sought to appease.

We’ve seen local prosecutors publicly advertising that they would rather side with rioters and looters than with business owners and the citizens of the community, by abdicating their responsibility to prosecute crime. Since when does playing politics take precedence over public safety?

Now, after months of denying the existence of the blatant violence engulfing their cities and calling arsonists and agitators “peaceful protesters,” we have seen these extreme local leaders wrongly attempt to blame that violence on DHS, this Administration, and President Trump. The American people see right through these political tactics and they stand with our law enforcement. We all stand with you.

President Trump has offered federal assistance to every community that has seen spikes in senseless violence. He has refused to accept lawlessness as the new status quo. He has refused to turn his back on Americans wanting the safety and security they once had.Together, with your help, we are restoring order to our cherished cities and neighborhoods. We are ensuring that those who commit acts of violence and break the law are held accountable.

Our citizens deserve to be protected and the Department of Homeland Security stands shoulder to shoulder with Department of Justice and other law enforcement partners to restore peace and prosperity.

One of the most disappointing examples of recent lawlessness has been in Portland, Oregon. For more than 60 consecutive days, the men and women of DHS were under nightly siege as they protected the federal courthouse. Each night, our officers held their ground while enduring a flood of violence including attempts of arson and physical assaults. The crowd was unrelenting, numbering as many as 5,000 on some nights.

Officers were attacked with sledgehammers, Molotov cocktails, fireworks, metal pipes, IED’s, and more, all the while suffering from an array of chemical burns, broken bones, concussions, and eye damage from blinding lasers. Even their personal lives were jeopardized through doxing, as police officers’ personal and private information was posted on the internet ripe for exploitation.

For weeks on end, Portland officials refused to cooperate with DHS or even acknowledge the rioters’ existence. Our requests of the city were simple: patrol the streets around the courthouse and clear the park where rioters staged their nightly siege. They refused. For more than two months, these pleas for partnership were rejected. Belatedly, the Governor agreed to cooperate…on day 60—something that should have occurred on day 1.

When local officials ignore criminality and violence against federal property and officers, DHS is compelled to take action. I have made clear time and again that DHS will never abdicate this moral and legal duty. All told, our law enforcement officers in Portland have suffered nearly 350 injuries. While rioters have now shifted their focus to local police assets, violence in the city persists. Nightly images of brutal assaults on city streets are the norm.

Some politicians and media figures have brazenly characterized the extreme violence in Portland as “mostly peaceful.” Our Constitution protects the natural right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. The Department supports the exercise of everyone’s First Amendment rights. There is, however, no Constitutional right to loot, to burn, or to assault law enforcement officers or fellow citizens.

Let me repeat, there is no Constitutional right to burn cities to the ground and assault the men and women of law enforcement.

I am proud of the work we are doing in Portland. I am proud of the work we are doing around the country. DHS will ensure that those who choose to break the law in that city, or any city, will be held accountable.

The vast majority of reasonable Americans are also proud of the work of law enforcement. We cannot fall victim to the delusion of a small minority that Americans are opposed to the honorable men and women who wear the badge and swear to protect our communities. Reasonable Americans see the violence against our officers and are not falling for the false narrative.

We, at the Department of Homeland Security, stand ready to help local law enforcement around the nation maintain law and order and return to peaceful, secure neighborhoods once again. Thankfully, President Trump and the Department of Homeland Security are not sitting idly by as honest, hard-working Americans watch their neighborhoods and livelihoods burn to ash.

Earlier this summer, the President took action in response to the civil unrest by signing an executive order calling upon the federal government to utilize its resources and capabilities to protect federal properties and our nation’s treasured monuments.

Answering the President’s call, I directed DHS to establish the Protecting American Communities Task Force, or PACT, a special group responsible for coordinating departmental law enforcement assets in protecting our nation’s historic monuments, memorials, statues, and federal facilities. PACT saw incredible success when it was first deployed on July 4th weekend and it continues to conduct ongoing assessments of potential civil unrest or destruction and allocates resources to protect people and property accordingly.

The Administration is also ensuring Americans’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars are not wasted by lawless governors and mayors. Signing a memorandum earlier this week, President Trump made clear he will hold lawless jurisdictions accountable by reviewing Federal funds provided to them, restricting their eligibility for certain Federal grants where permissible, and working to redirect those funds to jurisdictions that do, in fact, protect their communities. By identifying funds that may be redirected from jurisdictions where local politicians have permitted anarchy and violence to abound, President Trump is ensuring Americans are no longer forced to foot the bill for local politicians’ dereliction of duty.

Before I close, I would once again like to thank each of you for your partnership and dedication to duty.

You are the thin blue line, standing together, holding fast against the chaos and destruction threatening the ordered liberty we hold dear. I recognize the men and women of law enforcement are under tremendous pressure, but your professionalism, your commitment, and your selflessness does not go unnoticed.

Together, we will ensure the American people are secure. Together, we will push toward a safer nation. Together, we will feel safe to enjoy the freedoms of being an American.

As the President recently described: “America needs creation, not destruction; cooperation, not contempt; security, not anarchy; healing, not hatred; justice, not chaos. This is our mission, and we will succeed.” DHS supports you, and most importantly, a vast majority of the American people support you. I look forward to continuing to build our partnerships with each of you as we continue to fulfill our shared mission to protect the Homeland.

Thank you.

Last Published Date: September 4, 2020
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