Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas delivered the following remarks for the 2022 National Asian Peace Officers’ Association (NAPOA) Annual Training Symposium and Exposition in Houston, Texas. His remarks are below:
Good afternoon, President Bangphaxay Executive Director Tai, Chief Finner, and all of you in Houston today.
I am pleased to speak with you. I am just sorry I cannot be with you in person.
I want to begin by thanking NAPOA, all your chapters, and your members for your service to our communities and our nation.
Thank you for taking the time, precious time away from your families and your duties, to be here this week. Your presence and participation at this training symposium demonstrates a commitment to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and our communities by learning how to better protect and serve them.
Law enforcement is a profession of partnerships. The safety of our communities hinges upon the partnerships we build. You partner with healthcare workers and emergency responders, houses of worship and schools, businesses and nonprofit organizations, community leaders, and neighbors. And as demonstrated by your membership in NAPOA and NAAALEC, you partner with each other.
At DHS, this principle of partnership, of engaging communities and the agencies and organizations that are directly connected with and are a part of our communities, is central to everything we do. Among our most important partners are state and local law enforcement departments, agencies, and the officers who work daily on the front lines in our communities.
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 in a dynamic and evolving threat environment.
At DHS, we are acutely focused on combatting the increased threat of targeted violence. The FBI’s last published hate crime statistics show an increase in race-motivated hate crimes, including a 77% increase in anti-Asian hate incidents in 2020.
Following the tragic events that unfolded in Atlanta in March of last year, I had the opportunity to hear from members of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community, and to discuss what we must do to counter domestic violent extremism, crimes of hate, and rising incidents of violence targeting these communities.
In response to those discussions, we formed the DHS AANHPI Task Force and immediately got to work ensuring these communities received the tools and resources they need to combat the rising threats of targeted violence and domestic violent extremism.
We are committed to sharing intelligence and information to the broadest audience possible at the lowest classification level possible.
Through our dedicated Domestic Terrorism Branch in our Office of Intelligence and Analysis, we analyze, produce, and disseminate products to our state and local partners. Through this and other offices, the AANHPI Task Force developed and shared 16 responsive deliverables to help the communities better understand and respond to the threat.
We are also focused on preventing, mitigating, and identifying violence through community-based prevention programs linked to non-law enforcement organizations, with the goal of enabling these organizations to intervene and prevent horrific acts like those that occurred in Buffalo, Laguna Woods, 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.
The work of the AANHPI Task Force marked a critical step forward in advancing equity more comprehensively across the full range of our activities and ensuring underserved communities receive the resources they need.
In recognition of the greater need for this support, we broadened the scope of the Task Force last September to include other underserved communities and renamed it the DVE (or, Domestic Violent Extremism) Equity Task Force. This group continues to proactively work with our communities to help them stay safe.
In May, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices that 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, 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.
At DHS, through our Law Enforcement Coordination Council, we are working to meet the mandates of the President’s Executive Order by updating our use of force and no-knock entry policies and our reporting requirements. We are also reforming our own employee discipline processes to be more centralized, transparent, and fair.
For law enforcement to be effective, there must be trust with the communities we serve. Building this trust requires that we have a workforce that reflects those communities.
An example of how we are doing so is through a pledge we made to ensure women make up 30% of our new hires in DHS law enforcement positions by 2023. In support of this pledge, we conducted a hiring sprint earlier this year that resulted in 340 women hired in law enforcement or law enforcement-related positions.
Thanks to this effort, we hit our goal early, and while I am pleased to note that the sprint also increased the representation of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders in our new hires, the representation of this group in our law enforcement agencies still lags behind that of the U.S. population. We must do more to close this gap.
In the wake of the tragic shootings in Atlanta, we heard loud and clear the concerns that hate crimes targeting the AANHPI community are prevalent yet too often not given the attention they need and deserve. Those concerns tear at the fabric of trust that is so vital a part of effective law enforcement.
One critical way in which we can strengthen the bonds of trust is by ensuring that our identity reflects the community’s identity.
We will, therefore, continue to focus on ensuring our workforce draws from and reflects the full, rich diversity of our country. We will bring increased energy to our recruitment of AANHPI personnel.
For law enforcement to be effective, we must also take care of ourselves and the people under our charge. Yours is a challenging and dangerous profession that requires tremendous personal sacrifice. During the pandemic, when most of us worked from home, you could not.
The wellness of the DHS workforce is always top of mind for me as Secretary. I encourage you to take advantage of the training this week that focuses on your wellbeing and encourage others around you do the same.
So much of the work we do every day to keep our nation safe fundamentally relies upon the actions and partnership of members like you, members from across the country who represent federal, state, and local law enforcement of all ranks and positions.
I encourage you all to look for opportunities to contribute to positive change, no matter your rank or position. Continue to build and grow your partnerships. Continue to learn and take care of yourselves and others.
Together, we can and will make a difference.
Thank you for being here this week. Thank you for everything you do.