Wednesday, July 25, 2012

TOP STORY >> Attorney general visits LR

Leader senior staff writer

When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in the sights of a hostile Republican Congress earlier this year, members and officials of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), unsolicited, came to his aid with phone calls and letters, Holder said at a Tuesday awards luncheon at the Statehouse Convention Center. He came to Little Rock in part return the favor.

NOBLE is a national professional organization of black law-enforcement executives and command-level officers.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in this room for your service to the American people, your engagement with one another, and – especially – your steadfast partnership with our nation’s Department of Justice, as we move to confront the challenges – and seize the possibilities – that lie ahead,” Holder told the roughly 800 people NOBLE members filling the Wally Allen Banquet Room at the state House Convention Center.

“On a personal note, I want to say thanks – this organization and its members have had my back, in recent weeks and always.”

Holder twice alluded to the courage and determination of the Little Rock Nine in desegregating Central High School.

“Block by block, city by city, and department by department – we’ve shown that, together, we can make a powerful difference,” Holder said, adding—to great applause—that he hoped to work together with them in the months and years to come, a not-so-veiled reference to President Barack Obama’s November reelection challenge.

“As part of this administration’s commitment to get Americans back to work –and the President’s determination to stand with military service members and returning veterans – I am pleased to report that, since 2009, the Community Oriented Policing Services – or COPS – Hiring Program has awarded a total of $1.5 billion to create or protect 7,000 jobs in local law enforcement, including nearly 200 people this year alone who will be saved from layoffs, and more than 600 military veterans who will be hired as new law enforcement officers.

Last year alone, we awarded more than $24 million to help nearly 5,000 departments buy more than 188,000 protective vests. Throughout 2011 – and in the first six months of this year – the lives of at least 47 law-enforcement and correctional officers were saved by bullet- and stab-resistant vests. 

Twenty-four of those individuals were wearing protective vests purchased – in part – by federal funds administered through this program,” Holder said.

Holder said it was time to recommit to equal justice under law.

“This was the singular ideal that – more than half a century ago, just a short distance from where we gather today – led a group of nine courageous African-American students to brave bigotry and threats of violence in order to realize the spirit of the Supreme Court’s landmark (1954) Brown v. Board decision, and integrate Little Rock Central High School,” he said.

They and others “risked and too often gave their lives to ensure civil rights, and equal protection, for every American – regardless of race, creed, or color.”

“That’s why – in addition to celebrating all that you have achieved in the last year – this afternoon, I’m here to reaffirm the Justice Department’s commitment – and my own – to encouraging diversity across your ranks, protecting your safety and supporting and strengthening your work in every way possible.

Holder said he was speaking for his colleagues and counterparts at the Justice Department and for the president in saying, “I am profoundly grateful for the contributions that you have made and the innovations you’ve championed.”

In closing, he said, “There is no goal that is beyond our reach and no goal that is beyond our grasp.”