At the United States Department of Justice,
we are committed to ensuring that our local law enforcement partners have the resources
they need to effectively serve and protect all members of their communities,
particularly when citizens exercise their constitutionally protected rights.
To that end, the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Community Oriented Policing
Services are providing new guidance to law enforcement
officers about how to approach maintaining order during First Amendment-protected
events. This comprehensive new guide compiles information,
tools, and best practices that will help law enforcement
officers maintain public safety while safeguarding constitutional rights.
As we’ve seen, durable relationships between the police
and their communities do not develop overnight. But as someone who has spent a career at all
levels of law enforcement —and as the brother of a retired police
officer— I know the importance of these outreach efforts
to ensuring effective neighborhood policing, officer safety, and
community health. The Justice Department encourages law enforcement
officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to
minimize needless confrontation. It is vital to engage in planning and preparation,
from evaluating protocols and training to choosing the appropriate equipment and uniforms.
This is the hard work that is necessary to preserve the peace and maintain
the public trust at all times—particularly in moments of heightened community tension.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen demonstrations and protests that have sought to bring attention
to real and significant underlying issues involving police practices, implicit bias,
and pervasive community distrust. And in most cases, these demonstrations have
been both meaningful and responsible, and have brought vital issues to the attention
of the public at large. Similarly, the vast majority of law enforcement
officers have honorably defended their fellow citizens engaged in these peaceful
protests. I know, from first-hand experience, that demonstrations
like these have the potential to spark a sustained and
positive national dialogue, to provide momentum to a necessary conversation,
and to bring about critical reform. But history has also shown us that the most
successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression
and nonviolence. And so I ask all those who seek to lend their
voice to important causes and discussions, and who seek to elevate these vital conversations,
to do so in a way that respects the gravity of their subject matter.
Peaceful protest has been a hallmark, and a legacy, of past movements for change,
from patriotic women who demanded access to the franchise,
to the civil rights pioneers who marched for equal rights and equal justice.
Americans exercising their First Amendment right to free assembly
should look to those examples as they work to bring about real
and lasting change for themselves and for future generations.
Of course, I recognize that progress will not come easily,
and long-simmering tensions will not be cooled overnight.
These struggles go to the heart of who we are, and who we aspire to be,
both as a nation and as a people—and it is clear that
we have a great deal of important work to do.
But as we move forward, the Department of Justice
—and I personally—will continue to work with law enforcement
and communities throughout the country to help build the more perfect Union
—and the more just society—that all Americans deserve.