Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas delivered the following remarks for the National Latino Peace Officers’ Association (NLPOA) – Annual Training and Conference in San Diego, California. His remarks are below:
Thank you, President Chavez, for the introduction and for the invitation to join you today.
Thank you all for being here today and contributing your time to this symposium.
On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, I want to congratulate NLPOA on your 50th Anniversary.
The legacy of the founders of this organization, John Parraz and Vicente Calderon, is powerful and timely. Over 50 years ago, Mr. Parraz and Mr. Calderon recognized that for law enforcement to be effective, there must be trust with the communities we serve.
And to build this trust, the workforce must reflect those communities--in the words of the NLPOA mission statement, “bridge the gap between the Latino community and the police.”
With this clear purpose, the founders took action to remedy gaps in the representation of Latino police officers in California. They dedicated their personal time and energy and assumed professional risk to stand up this organization, NLPOA.
Half a century later, your organization spans across the country with 23 chapters and members in all 50 states.The representation of Latinos in law enforcement has steadily grown, from 5% in the late 1980s to nearly 17% today. You are the embodiment of their commitment and courage.
While the NLPOA founders were, unquestionably, leaders when they started this organization, they were not chiefs, sheriffs, or senior executives of their departments or precincts. Mr. Parraz was a sergeant and Mr. Calderon a highway patrol captain.
They led from the middle, and they partnered with others up and down and across in the law enforcement community.
The example of their leadership stands as proof that you can make a real difference and effect lasting change from any position in an organization.
It is an extremely challenging time for law enforcement.
Crime rates are increasing, and our communities face new threats, including those from foreign terrorists; drugs; gangs; active shooters; targeted violence; domestic terrorism; transnational organized crime; cyber – ransomware attacks on hospitals, police departments, and public utilities; disinformation; and other hostile actions of foreign adversaries.
The wide array of threats you face impacts the safety and security of local communities of every size and in every locale across our great nation. This evolving threat landscape makes the work of law enforcement more difficult, dangerous, and stressful than ever before, while the demand for the services you provide continues to increase, straining your personnel and resources.
These strains are only made worse as recruitment and retention challenges continue to grow and additional pressures are placed on your existing workforces.
In facing these challenges, drawing from the example of Mr. Parraz and Mr. Calderon, leadership and partnership across all levels of law enforcement is essential.
Your participation here demonstrates a commitment to strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and our communities by learning how better to protect and serve them. At its core, it is a commitment to partnership – with schools, houses of worship, with healthcare workers and emergency responders, businesses, and nonprofits, and with each other.
At the Department of Homeland Security, we consider you – state, local, and territorial law enforcement departments, agencies, and the officers who work daily on the front lines with our communities – to be our most important partners.
We are committed to ensuring you have the tools, resources, and support you need to continue your vital work of ensuring public safety.
We recognize that law enforcement needs more resources, faster delivery of those resources, less red tape, and the flexibility to use those resources as you deem effective. We are making this happen.
One way we do this is through our grant programs. We recently awarded 415 million dollars to state, local, and tribal officials to help prevent, protect against, and prepare for acts of terrorism through risk-based grants.
And we allocated 615 million dollars to 36 different high risk urban areas to address their security needs.
Information sharing with law enforcement partners and others makes our communities safer.
At DHS, we have committed to sharing intelligence and information to the broadest audience possible at the lowest classification level possible.
We created a dedicated Domestic Terrorism Branch in our Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which has enhanced our ability to analyze, produce, and disseminate products to our state and local partners.
And we are realigning our efforts to enhance our intelligence partnerships with all our state, local, territorial, tribal, and campus partners.
Last month we held an Intelligence Summit in partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and other national law enforcement organizations to deepen those partnerships and continue to improve information sharing. This summit was the first of its kind to be held in 15 years, and it laid important groundwork to improve the collaboration and connectivity across all levels of government.
The Homeland Security Information Network’s intelligence community of interest – or HSIN Intel – has become the one-stop-shop for accessing unclassified threat information produced across all levels of government across the country.
And this spring we launched an app so that you can access that information anytime, anywhere.Search for ‘DHS Intel’ to add the DHS Intel Mobile application to your phones.
Promoting equity, eliminating discrimination, and upholding and raising the standards of our profession are not just the right thing to do, they are vital to keeping our communities safe.
Law enforcement is a dangerous career that requires tremendous personal sacrifice.
With changes in public perceptions, it is even harder to attract and keep law enforcement officers. The hiring rate for law enforcement dropped about 5% in 2021, and recruitment cannot keep up with the rising rates of resignations and retirements.
The challenges faced by the workforce – recruitment and retention but also wellbeing, representation, and inclusivity –are always top of mind for me as Secretary.
At DHS we are making progress. Hispanic and Latino representation in our law enforcement workforce is almost 28%, but we are not done. We have more work to do in ensuring our workforce reflects the diverse nation it is sworn to protect.
When I became Secretary, I pledged that women would 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 I am pleased to note that the sprint also increased the representation of other underrepresented groups in our new hires, as well.
But recruitment efforts to get women and members of other underrepresented groups in the door of an organization are not enough. An organization must also work to include and retain them, ensuring they are mentored and afforded opportunities to grow and succeed.
I know this is important to NLPOA, too. Your founders worked steadily to bring women into the organization, and I am glad to see those efforts reflected here today.
Retaining and recruiting the best law enforcement officers also demands we build workplaces that are fair, where we hold one another accountable.
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 your trainings, I encourage you all to look for opportunities to contribute to positive change, up, down and across the law enforcement community.
Continue to build and grow your partnerships. Continue to look for ways you can make your organization stronger, more inclusive, and ready for the challenges of today and tomorrow.
We are very proud to partner with you in pursuit of our shared mission to keep our communities safe. We look forward to our continued work together.
Thank you for your service to your communities and thank you for all you do every day.