Good evening. As always, it is great to be here with you.
I want to thank each of you for taking time away from your departments to come to this conference. And I especially want to welcome the family of James Sheehan.
Jim joined the Boston Police Department in 1920. Through his hard work, his unfailing integrity, and his dedication to the rule of law, he rose through the ranks to serve as deputy superintendent. Jim graduated from the first session of the National Academy and served as the first president of the alumni association. He was an example of law enforcement at its finest, and we are grateful to have his family here with us tonight.
As I understand it, this is the first time this conference has been held in Boston. I lived here for many years. For those of you who have never visited, a few words of advice.
First and foremost, the letter “r” disappeared when you crossed the state line. This can make communicating with the locals a challenge.
Some of you may know a graduate of the 238th named Scott Livingston, who I believe may be here tonight. For 10 weeks, Scott kept complaining about his biggest pet peeve, “da bumpa da bumpa.” No one could figure out what he was talking about, until he explained that he was referring to the heavy traffic on I-95, as in “the bumper-to-bumper” traffic.
This only proves that we do not need translators for our international students, who speak perfect English. But we do need translators for the students from Massachusetts.
If something is good, it must hail from Boston. If it is bad, it can only come from New York.
If you are not a rabid fan of the Red Sox, as I am, pretend you are. And if all else fails, say something negative about the Yankees—there is so much to choose from.
By the way—any Yankees fans here tonight? Okay, please relinquish your Yellow Bricks on your way out.
The first speech I gave as Director of the FBI was to the graduates of the 206th session on September 7, 2001—just four days before the terrorist attacks on America.
In my remarks that day, I suggested that these were tough times for law enforcement, given that crime had become more global and more varied than ever. Advances in travel and technology had opened the doors to a new world of communication and commerce. Yet they had also made us more vulnerable to criminal and terrorist attacks.
It has been nearly nine years since then, but the same speech could be given tonight.
We continue to confront terrorist threats, both at home and abroad. Nine years ago, al Qaeda was our primary concern. Today, we also confront homegrown terrorists and individuals who may travel overseas to train for and perhaps commit acts of terrorism, but who may one day return home to plan and execute attacks here.
At the same time, we face increasingly dangerous criminal threats. Our gang population continues to grow, with members migrating to mid-size cities across the country.
Organized crime is on the rise. We are not merely speaking of money laundering and extortion, but human trafficking and health care fraud.
Child exploitation is a growth industry. Computer hackers do not need to know each other’s real names, or even live on the same continent, to steal millions in mere hours. And, as evidenced by recent events, espionage continues to pit country against country and company against company.
It is an understatement to say that our plates are indeed full. And yet look at how far we have come, together.
Ten years ago, when confronted by a surge in street crime, the migration of MS-13, or a child abduction, the question to any one police department or agency might have been, “What are you going to do about it?”
Today, the question is, “What are we going to do about it?”
A few examples of our collective success:
Together, we are fighting violence and corruption on the Southwest border. In June, through Project Deliverance, more than 3,000 agents and officers in 16 states arrested 2,200 individuals.
This past May, 600 agents and officers arrested 78 top members of two street gangs—the Bloods and the Latin Kings. These gangs were responsible for much of the drug trafficking, street crime, and violence in Newburgh, a city north of Manhattan. Newburgh used to lead New York state in per capita homicides, but through the Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force, we are having a substantial impact on the city’s crime rate.
We are working with ICE, the Department of Labor, and the LAPD to combat human trafficking. Earlier this year, we arrested nine defendants who had smuggled young girls from Guatemala to the United States to work as prostitutes. The ringleader was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Our collaboration is equally important in white collar criminal cases. In June, we arrested nearly 500 individuals, from industry insiders to straw buyers, in a nationwide mortgage fraud takedown. And earlier this month, nearly 400 officers and agents from Miami, Baton Rouge, Brooklyn, Detroit, and Houston joined forces with HHS to charge 94 individuals with Medicare fraud.
These diverse threats illustrate how difficult our jobs have become, on every level.
As I said to the graduates of the 206th back in 2001, there was a day in law enforcement when teamwork and partnership were virtues. Today, they are minimum requirements. Collaboration is not something for which we strive. It is an absolute necessity.
But the National Academy represents more than just partnership. It represents friendship. It guarantees that you can pick up the phone, day or night, anywhere around the world, and find someone who will stand behind you.
The Yellow Bricks you earned are more than mementos of your time at Quantico—they are symbols of your commitment.
I recently visited a European country and met with the Deputy Minister of Justice—a graduate of the National Academy. I told him that I was not pleased with a position his minister had taken on a recent extradition case. I jokingly threatened him with the ultimate sanction—the loss of his Yellow Brick. He threw up his hands in surrender and said, “No, anything but that!”
It is my hope that while you are here, you will re-connect with old friends and cultivate new colleagues and future partners.
You came to Quantico as strangers. But you left as lifelong friends. Along the way, you learned to live with your roommate’s annoying habits. And believe it or not, they learned to live with yours. You survived the grueling PT, the cafeteria food, the homework, and International Night. Many of you became almost proficient at doing your own laundry—a fact for which your families should be forever grateful.
More importantly, you stood in solidarity when your classmates lost colleagues in the line of duty. You passed the hat in times of personal illness and family emergency. You reminded one another of why you chose to serve as law enforcement officers and why we must continue to work side by side.
The 241st session of the National Academy graduated this past June. They were visiting New York City on the day of the attempted bombing in Times Square.
The group dined that night at Carmine’s. In the middle of dinner, several bagpipers from the NYPD walked in and began to play, without notice or fanfare. Those who were there spoke of the silence that descended over the room and of the sense that they were all part of something greater than themselves.
A day that could have ended in tragedy instead came to represent for that class the very best in partnership.
That is what the National Academy stands for. That is why we are here tonight—to build on the foundation begun 75 years ago, when just 23 strangers met to talk about what they together could do to keep their communities safe.
Today, you are part of a network nearly 43,000 strong. That’s 43,000 yellow bricks sitting on desks and bookcases around the world. That amounts to a line of bricks that extends for nearly six miles—the same length as the Yellow Brick Road itself.
But what it really amounts to is a worldwide network of trust and teamwork—a network that represents the best of who we are and what we do.
I am honored to serve beside each of you, and I look forward to continuing the legacy we have built.
Thank you and God bless.
Executive Speeches | Press