Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas delivered the following remarks for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) – 46 Annual Training Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida. His remarks are below:
Thank you, President Thomas, Executive Director Crawford, NOBLE’s Executive Board, local chapters, and each member for welcoming me to your 46th annual conference.
Allow me to join in congratulating today’s award winners, Sheriff Erroll Toulon and Roderick Looney, for your tremendous achievements, achievements that exemplify NOBLE’s mission and its contributions to our nation.
I am honored to be joining you today.
In March, I appointed your immediate past president, Lynda Williams, to the DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council, my principal group of outside advisors. Lynda’s leadership and sage counsel are a testament to the values and commitment of your organization, an organization that is a major force in advancing change in the law enforcement community.
I admire the unyielding commitment and dedication of your members, your chapters, and the national organization.
I also want to extend a special thank you to President Biden. While he was not able to join in person, his commitment to closing the gap between law enforcement and the communities we serve has been critical as we work to ensure our practices adhere to the law and to our fundamental values, values shared by the Department of Homeland Security and NOBLE, as we continue our work to build trust with the public.
The President’s Executive Order signed in May on Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices recognizes that our criminal justice system must respect the dignity and rights of all persons and adhere to our fundamental obligation to ensure fair and impartial justice for all.
NOBLE is an important and valued partner to the Department in that endeavor.
Our relationship is a long and productive one. While preparing for my remarks today, I looked back to NOBLE’s beginnings in 1976. From the start, when a group of Black law enforcement leaders gathered to address crime and to raise questions about fairness in the administration of justice, NOBLE has served as an important change agent. Your leaders have been innovators and trail blazers in their daily work in the community, and visionaries on a national level.
Like NOBLE's first president, Hubert Williams. The first Black police chief of a major city --Newark, NJ -- he was also one of the youngest police directors in the country at the time.
At that symposium that first brought them together, Chief Williams and the others realized something that continues to be true today, that they could have a significantly more effective impact through a unified voice. Your voice is needed today as much as it was then, and perhaps more than ever.
Homeland Security is a young federal department. Younger than NOBLE. From its founding in 2003, however, the principle of partnership, of engaging communities and the agencies and organizations that have direct connectivity with our communities, has proved vital to its success. So too are accountability and transparency, and both have been a priority for me as Secretary.
These are principles we share with NOBLE, and they are principles that underpin our collective efforts to redefine law enforcement and rebuild public trust.
Among our most important partners are state and local law enforcement departments, agencies, and the officers who work daily on the front lines with our communities, our first line of defense.
We are committed to ensuring our partners, all of you here today, have the tools, resources, and support you need to continue your vital work of ensuring public safety.
Across the Department we continue to work to increase our engagement with our federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and campus law enforcement partner agencies in sharing information on matters affecting the security of our homeland, and on the coordination of operations where our jurisdictions intersect.
One of our most critical missions at the Department is to provide intelligence and information to the broadest audience at the lowest classification level possible.
An example of this is through our Office for State and Local Law Enforcement, led by Chief Heather Fong. Through Heather’s office we maintain a comprehensive law enforcement resources page on DHS.gov, and we recently published a Law Enforcement Resources Guide to help connect our partners with the many resources we have available in our Department to increase our communities’ resilience in the face of evolving threats.
I’d like to share a bit about our efforts to combat one dangerous threat we collectively face and one area where we are working continually to solidify and diversify our partnerships and ensure public safety.
DHS was formed nearly 20 years ago in the aftermath of 9/11, and the threat of violent extremism has evolved over this time, from a threat born overseas to one that now grows from within our nation’s borders.
This threat remains gravely familiar to Orlando just six years after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting.
Everyone here is assuredly aware of the slogan If You See Something, Say Something. It may make you think of the airport, of the transit station, of the backpack left by a bus stop, perhaps by someone who wishes to do us harm.
But the world of domestic violent extremism is different.
We are not talking about the backpack as much. We are talking about the individual. And the issue is not the identification of the backpack but the ability to identify when a person might, for example, be outwardly expressing an ideology of hate or false narratives, when we begin to see them display a tendency to be driving towards violence.
Prevention is a key component of our approach. We have enhanced our prevention efforts, including the identification and mitigation of violence through community-based prevention programs linked to non-law enforcement organizations with the goal to intervene and prevent horrific acts like those that occurred most recently in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Highland Park from happening.
We have increased funding to grow these programs and enhance our communities’ preparedness by offering a number of grant programs to get the resources into the hands of the communities themselves.
We are working to help nonprofit organizations, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, houses of worship, and other religious institutions to protect themselves from terrorism, hate crimes, and targeted violence through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
Information sharing is also critical to our approach.
We have issued more than 100 unclassified intelligence products related to domestic violent extremism, as well as six National Terrorism Advisory System bulletins, that describe and contextualize the evolving threat environment for the public and provide resources for how to stay safe.
We have also created a dedicated Domestic Terrorism Branch in our Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which has enhanced our ability to analyze, produce, and disseminate products, assuring our connectivity between DHS and our state and local partners.
The President’s Executive Order reinforced that the integrity of the criminal justice system fundamentally relies upon fair and equal treatment, transparency, and accountability.
Since I was sworn in as Secretary, I have made it one of our Department’s top priorities to create a culture of excellence and one of openness and accountability.
We can recognize the tremendous work that our law enforcement agencies and individual officers and agents do every single day, while acknowledging the moments when we fall short.
That is how we honor those who live up to the standards we expect.
To that end, we in DHS have reviewed our own employee discipline processes.
And based upon a review by the Department’s General Counsel, we have undertaken significant reforms to those processes, including centralizing the decision-making process for disciplinary actions and overhauling agency policies regarding disciplinary penalties.
Through our Law Enforcement Coordination Council, we are working to meet the mandates of the President’s Executive Order, including updating our use of force policies, reporting requirements, and no knock-entries.
We also remain deeply committed to ensuring we conduct all law enforcement activities in an unbiased manner and provide equal access to the resources and information that are offered.
We are committing to ensuring all communities, including underserved Black and Brown communities that are more vulnerable to threats, have access to the resources and support they need.
We must invest in treating those in our custody with dignity, to ensure their safety, and to equip our workforce with the basic needs that they have and are entitled to feel supported.
We must address their wellness too, and we are doing so. That is especially true in these trying times as law enforcement and our broader communities face unprecedented challenges.
Care for those in our custody, and care for those who enforce the law go hand in hand. We can both champion law enforcement and insist on respecting the dignity and rights of all persons.
You understand this better than anyone.
Reflecting upon NOBLE’s impact and contributions to the law enforcement community, it is clear that diverse leadership changes the culture of an organization and improves its performance.
For law enforcement to be effective, there must be trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve. Building trust requires that we have a workforce that reflects those communities.
Just one example of the way we are doing so in the Department is through our Women in Law Enforcement hiring sprint, where we have pledged to ensure women make up 30% of our new hires in DHS law enforcement positions by 2023.
We have much more work underway.
We remain committed to promoting a diverse, inclusive, and accessible culture in the Department, one that draws from the full diversity, rich diversity of our country.
Strengthening public safety and the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the community, while respecting the dignity and equality of all, are achievable goals.
I would not have taken this job if I did not have hope for what we can accomplish.
We know there is more to do. We are proud to be partners with NOBLE and look forward to our continued work with this great organization, with all of you.
Thank you very much.