3:21 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I have a lot of friends in this room. Thank you. That’s a very fancy-looking table. A lot of very powerful people sitting around that table. Thank you very much, everybody. And thank you, Sheriff Judd — a friend of mine for a long time — for those kind words and for your outstanding leadership of the Major County Sheriffs of America. That’s an important group of words. Done an incredible job.
I also want to thank your Vice President, Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, as well as the leaders of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, and Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo. Where’s Art? What a job you’ve done, Art. I’m proud of you. Thank you, Art, very much. Appreciate it. And Phoenix Chief, Jeri Williams. Where’s Jeri? Stand up. Stand up, Jeri. Great job. Thank you, Jeri. (Applause.)
We’re grateful to be joined as well by Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker. Matt? (Applause.) Fantastic, Matt. They all appreciate the job you’ve done. And so do I, Matt, very much. Thank you very much.
It’s an honor to address so many amazing police chiefs, and sheriffs, and superintendents from our nation’s largest cities and counties. Together, you represent hundreds of thousands of extraordinary law enforcement officials and personnel all across our nation. I’ve come to deliver a very important message from the American people to you: Thank you.
That’s their message. (Applause.)
And I think — I have to say this: You have no idea how much the American people love and respect you. You don’t hear it. You probably don’t hear too much when you have to read it from the fake news. But they love you. They love you and they respect you, and they really appreciate everything you do. So on behalf of the American people, I thank you all.
And I want to thank you for what you do in defending our streets and keeping America safe. You and the officers have just done an incredible job. And you love what you do. You wouldn’t trade it for anything. I know very few people in your profession that would want to do anything else. They love it. Right? Look at them; they’re all nodding, “Yes. Yes.” You wouldn’t want to switch with me, either. (Laughter.)
It’s true. You love what you do. And if you don’t love it — I used to talk about success all the time. If you don’t love it, you can never do it well; you’ll never be successful. And that’s one of the reasons you do it so well.
When I took office two years ago, one of my highest priorities was to reduce violent crime. In the two years before my inauguration, violent crime increased by 8 percent nationwide, and murders were up by more than 20 percent.
The cornerstone of our strategy is revitalizing one of the most effective crime reduction initiatives in history: Project Safe Neighborhoods. This program brings together law enforcement, community groups, and local leaders to get the most violent offenders, in the most dangerous areas, off our streets and put them behind bars as quickly and easily as possible.
Last year, we secured $50 million in funding Project Safe Neighborhoods, and I’m proud to announce that we are asking Congress for even more funding this year. And we’ll get it.
We’ve deployed nearly 200 new violent crime prosecutors across our country. In 2018, my administration prosecuted more violent criminals than ever before in the history of our country. And we’ve increased the average sentence for drug trafficking to its highest level in many years.
Through the combined effort of everyone here today, violent crime is now going down for the first time in a long while. Murders in America’s largest cities dropped by 6 percent compared to 2016.
The police departments here today have provided us with new homicide data showing steep declines over the last two years, including an estimated reduction of 16 percent in New Orleans, 27 percent in Newark, and 30 percent in Milwaukee. That’s great. Three places — that’s a great job you’re doing in those three places, especially.
In my administration, we understand that reducing crime begins with respecting law enforcement. We will not tolerate smears, or slanders, or assaults on those who wear the badge and police our streets.
In order to keep every American safe, we are making officer safety a top priority — unless you’d rather not have that. (Applause.) Unless you’d rather not have it. But if you want it, we’re doing it. And I know you want it.
In support of that goal, more than $600 million worth of surplus military equipment has been made available to law enforcement. This is equipment that was rotting. The best stuff, but rotting in warehouses that a past administration didn’t want you to have. Someday they’ll explain that one to me. I actually have heard the reasoning, but you’re getting it and it’s coming in droves. And as we get additional equipment, we send it out to our great police.
When an officer is hurt, it is a wound inflicted upon our entire nation. In my administration, we strongly believe that criminals who murder cops should get the death penalty.
Every day — (applause) — our law enforcement officers risk their lives to defend the lives of others.
One week ago, Milwaukee Officer Matthew Rittner was murdered as he led a drug raid. Last night, NYPD Detective Brian Simonsen tragically lost his life when he responded to an armed robbery. We grieve the loss of these great heroes. Our hearts go out to their families and to everyone in the NYPD and Milwaukee Law Enforcement community. We will never forget them.
Tomorrow is also the one-year anniversary of the horrific Parkland shooting. We cannot imagine the sorrow and suffering the Parkland families have endured. Our entire nation mourns for the victims and their loved ones, and we pledge our unwavering resolve to work with the leaders in this room to secure our nation’s schools and everywhere else.
We enacted the Fix NICS Act and the STOP School Violence Act, which gives grants to schools and law enforcement to improve safety.
My administration also formed a School Safety Commission that recently released its official report, which includes nearly 100 detailed recommendations that really work and really make sense, based on input from families, educators, mental health practitioners, and law enforcement. Now we must work together to turn these recommendations into reality. They’re really good recommendations. A lot of common sense in those recommendations. And we need more common sense, overall, in our country.
Nothing is more important than protecting our children. Today, I would also like to address an urgent and growing threat that impacts the safety, security, and wellbeing of every American family: the crisis on our southern border. So much crime comes in through our southern border.
Illegal immigration provides a lucrative cash flow — to put it mildly, “lucrative” — to some of the most dangerous criminal organizations on the planet. These deadly cartels flood our cities with narcotics that kill thousands of our citizens, ruin families. They use fear, intimidation, and violence to get their way, and they terrorize innocent communities on both sides of the border.
There is only one moral course of action: to put these ruthless criminal cartels out of business and out of business fast. (Applause.)
Just two days ago, with the help of DEA, ICE, and the FBI — we have such incredible people, and you saw this — federal prosecutors secured a conviction against the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin Guzman, or “El Chapo.” He is now looking at a lifetime behind bars. And I have to say, the prosecutors did an incredible job — Eastern District. Incredible job. A lot of people did a great job with that.
But to defeat these transnational gangs, we must fully and completely secure the border. That means more law enforcement, closing legal loopholes, ending catch-and-release, ending sanctuary cities, and finishing the border wall, which we will do. Which we will do. We’re very far along. Building a lot of it right now, as we speak.
As we review the new proposal from Congress, I can promise you this: I will never waver from my sacred duty to defend this nation and its people. We will get the job done. The wall is very, very — on its way. It’s happening as we speak. We’re building, as speak, in the most desperately needed areas. And it’s a big wall. It’s a strong wall. It’s a wall the people aren’t going through very easy. You’re going to have to be in extremely good shape to get over this one. (Laughter.) They would be able to climb Mount Everest a lot easier, I think.
But it’s happening. And we have other things happening too. We’re strengthening up the ports of entry. We’re using tremendous technology, including drones, but tremendous technology. But it all hinges around the walls, because if you don’t have the walls, the technology is almost useless.
It is the core responsibility of government to establish and enforce clear rules for entry and admission into our great country. These immigration laws exist to protect our families, our communities, and the security of our entire nation. When these laws are violated, innocent Americans — including millions of hardworking legal immigrants — are left to pay a very heavy price.
When we surrender control of our nation’s borders to coyotes and smugglers, heartache and suffering are the inevitable result.
One of the most tragic consequences of our unsecured border is the terrible scourge of human trafficking and sex trafficking that so many of you folks help and work so hard to stop. But, you know, with the Internet, it’s at the highest level they say it’s ever been in the history of the world. It’s not just United States; it’s in the history of the world — the Internet. So many good things happen with the Internet, but bad things happen too. We must use every resource at our disposal to stop this evil once and for all.
The incredible patriots at Homeland Security are on the frontlines of this vital effort. Every day, the courageous men and women of CBP are rescuing women and girls from trafficking, blocking deadly shipments of weapons and drugs, and tracking down and removing violent criminals who threaten our people.
In the last two years alone, our brave ICE officers have made 266,000 arrests. Think of that. And these are arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of approximately 100,000 assaults, 40,000 larcenies, 30,000 sex crimes, 25,000 burglaries, 12,000 vehicle thefts — and these are new numbers; brand-new numbers — 11,000 robberies, 4,000 kidnappings, and 4,000 murders. Four thousand murders.
Yet, despite their heroic public service, ICE and Border Patrol are subjected to relentless partisan attacks from those on an extreme edge of the political spectrum. It’s called the radical left. And they’re going further and further left all the time, and that’s not good. It’s not good for what you do.
We condemn these attacks on law enforcement, and we salute the heroes who keep us safe. Uncontrolled borders not only endanger our communities, they endanger the men and women who protect our communities.
America will never forget the heroes we’ve lost, like Corporal Ronil Singh, who was ruthlessly gunned down by an illegal alien on the day after Christmas. He left behind a wife and a beautiful 5-month-old son. I got to know his brother, and his brother is a fantastic young man who is totally devastated.
Not one more American life should be lost because our nation failed to secure its borders.
Every American, in every community and from every walk of life, has a right to live in security and to live in peace. That is my highest priority as President, and that is the sacred calling and noble mission of every leader in this room. Nobody does a better job.
Here with us today is Sheriff John McMahon from San Bernardino, California. Ever since he was a young boy, John wanted to follow in his great-grandfather’s footsteps and become a law enforcement officer. In 1985, he started out as a patrol deputy. Today, John is the Sheriff of San Bernardino County.
We all remember the dark day in December of 2015 when terrorists opened fire at an office holiday party in San Bernardino. I’ve spoken about that often. These were people that worked in the office with other people. They thought they were all friends. But one day, they came in shooting. Incredible.
Immediately, John worked with the local police chief to respond. Their brave officers chased down the terrorists and brought their sinister rampage to a rapid end.
Sheriff, we thank you and your officers for your service. I’d like John — where’s John? Where is John? Where is John? Come up here, John. Come up here. (Applause.) I don’t know if we can get you past Secret Service, John, but we’re going to try, right? Come on. That’s great. That was a terrible tragedy. I remember it so well. Come up. (Applause.) Thank you, John.
SHERIFF MCMAHON: A little bit taller than I am. Thank you so much for your kind words, Mr. President. And I will tell you, your support for law enforcement is incredible, and we all in this room thank you for what you’ve done for us.
The relationships we have with our federal law enforcement partners are absolutely incredible. Better than they’ve been in my 34-year career.
But I think the true heroes — and we have to remember this — are the men and women who we all get to work with each day that put on the uniform and go do the job of protecting and serving all of the communities we’re responsible for. Thank you so much, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, John. Congratulations. (Applause.) He did a good job. He didn’t know he was going to do that. It’s always dangerous to have somebody come up and speak. You never know. (Laughter.) It can be very dangerous. Thank you very much, John. Great job. We’re very proud of you.
As first responders, our nation’s police and law enforcement officers race to the scene in times of tragedy, including natural disasters, giving everything they have to protect the lives of others. And I’ve often heard — because I think it’s an incredible statement to protect the lives of people they don’t know, in many cases. They don’t know these people. But they love these people and they want to protect their lives. It’s pretty incredible.
During Hurricane Harvey, the Houston Police Department led six consecutive days of 24-hour shifts to rescue thousands and thousands of stranded citizens. Saved their lives. Their officers formed a human chain to pull people out of the rushing floodwaters. They worked through long nights of pouring rain. You remember that one well; that was a big one. I don’t believe we’ve ever had a hurricane that’s dumped that much water on land. It went out; it came back in. Went out; came back in. Then a third time: Came back in. It was terrible. But using flashlights, ropes, small boats, and the Cajun Navy. That’s what it was. It was incredible.
Even though 650 officers had their own homes flooded, with their own families being in danger, they kept on serving and they kept on coming. And people gained even more respect for what you do.
Earlier, I introduced Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. Thanks, Art. (Applause.) Joining him today are 10 leaders. Come on. Stand up, Art. Come up on here, Art. Get up here, Art. Come on. (Applause.)
John, I think we’ll have him up here, too. What do you think? Okay? John says “yes.”
Joining Art today are 10 leaders from the Houston Police Department: Executive Assistant Chief Troy Finner. Tony? Where’s Tony? Tony? Hello, Tony. Hi, Tony. Thanks, Tony. You have a good representative up here, Tony? Huh? Thanks.
Assistant Chiefs William Dobbins, Wendy Baimbridge, and Larry Satterwhite. Commanders Michael Skillern, William Staney, Daryn Edwards, Milton Martin, Yasar Bashir, and Deputy Director Ann Spiegel. Come on up. Come on up. Get up here. Right? (Applause.)
I like these people. I feel very comfortable with these people. I feel very safe with these people. Come on up. (Applause.) Why don’t you say something?
To each of you, thank you for helping to save countless American lives. And I’d like to have you say a couple of words, please.
SHERIFF ACEVEDO: Sure. You are spontaneous, Mr. President. I think you’re off script here. But on behalf — (laughter) — yeah.
So on behalf of all of us that are up here, this is just a — it just speaks as to the, I think, the professionalism, the commitment of our men and women, but also our partnership with our federal partners. And we could not have survived that event without the Coast Guard, the FBI, the DEA, and all of our partners that came and supported us.
So on behalf of all us, thank you for the recognition and thank you for spending time with America’s chiefs and sheriffs. We really appreciate it. Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much.
PARTICIPANT: Back to work!
THE PRESIDENT: Back to work, right? They just said “back to work.” That’s true. Thank you very much.
Every police and sheriff’s department here today is a family, it’s a team. You form an unbreakable bond that carries you through every challenge that comes your way — very dangerous challenges.
From Phoenix to Philadelphia, from Austin to Atlanta, from Tulsa to Tampa, you prevent crime, you get violent offenders off of our streets, and you make sure the innocent are rescued from incredible danger.
You train your deputies and officers to be the very best, you give them the support they need, and you inspire them to never give in, to never back down, to always stand proud as America’s brave men and women in blue.
You represent the very best among us: the Americans who get up in the morning, put on that great uniform, and walk out the door to protect and to serve. On dangerous street corners, in dimly lit squad cars, on difficult beats and demanding calls, you wear the badge, you defend the law, and you stand faithful, courageous, and so very strong.
So to every police chief and sheriff here today, and to every officer and deputy across America — to all of law enforcement: We will never forget your service, and we will never, ever let you down. We will never let you down. (Applause.)
We greatly respect you, we love you, and we thank God for you each and every day.
Thank you very much. God bless you. And God bless America. Thank you all. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody.
3:45 P.M. EST