[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[June 29, 1995]
[Pages 973-977]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Announcing Community Policing Grants
June 29, 1995

    Thank you. Commissioner, I need this around here these days. 
[Laughter] I'm delighted to have it. Thank you very much.
    Thank you, Madam Attorney General. I thank all the law enforcement 
officials who are here, the representatives of the victims group, Mrs. 
Brady, and the others who have supported and led the fight for the 
passage of the Brady bill and the assault weapons ban. We're glad to see 
the mayors here: Mayor Giuliani, Mayor Cleaver, Mayor Barry, and others. 
And I thank the Members of Congress for coming: Senators Biden and Boxer 
and Pell, and Congressman LaFalce, Congresswoman Maloney, Congressman 
Schumer, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and I think Congressman 
Kennedy is here, Congresswoman Harman. I miss anybody? I want to thank 
all of them, you know, because if it hadn't been for them--and 
especially I thank you, Senator Biden, for making sure we actually got 
this crime bill passed last year through all the political fog and the 6 
years of debate.
    I want to say this is a day--I was thinking--on the way in we had a 
little television out here in the anteroom, and we were watching the 
American and the Russian spaceships who are hooking up in space. And 
they were going back and forth and kind of playing games with each other 
in space, and I said, ``Well, I guess this really means the cold war is 
over.'' It's a source of celebration. Today, as this is going on, the 
Vice President is in Moscow talking with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin 
about a whole range of issues between our country.
    Yesterday we celebrated what I believe is a very, very strong trade 
agreement with Japan that will create jobs for American workers. And I 
feel good about that. And I think in so many ways the United States is 
taking full advantage of this global society of ours, of the end of the 
cold war. Of course, there are still problems; there will be problems 
until the end of time. But in so many ways, we're taking full advantage 
of it. And yet, I think one of the things that all of us has to 
recognize, all of us who love our country and want the best for it, is 
that we must find ways for the American people to feel more secure as 
they move into a world that is changing more and more.
    Part of it is economic security. We have to find ways not only to 
create jobs but to raise people's incomes and to give them a better 
chance to either keep the job they've got or

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to know they can get another one if they have to lose it in this wave of 
downsizing that's sweeping the entire world. And a lot of it is what you 
do. It's what you have to do every day. The first responsibility any of 
us have in public life is to preserve order and law and security.
    When I ran for President, I had the opportunity to travel all over 
this country and visit with police officers and walk the streets of our 
largest cities and some of our small towns and talk to people about 
crime and drugs and what was happening to young people and the rising 
tide of violence in our country. And I pledged at that time that if I 
were elected, I would do everything I could to put another 100,000 
police officers on the street and to pay for it by reducing the size of 
the Federal Government by 100,000.
    The Congress has voted already to reduce the size of the Federal 
Government by 272,000. And I can report to you that today we're over 
halfway there. There are 150,000 fewer people working for this 
Government today than there were on the day I took the oath of office as 
President. We have done it in what I think is a very humane way. We had 
packages to give people incentives for early retirement. We've tried not 
to be guilty of cruel downsizing. And we've tried not to forget that 
those people served our country and served our country well.
    But we need to reallocate the resources from the Federal Government 
to the streets of America to increase the sense of security people have. 
And I feel very, very strongly that this has worked because of all of 
you and because of people like you around the country. The crime bill 
and the COPS MORE Program, in particular, are running on time, as the 
Attorney General said, and ahead of schedule, and in fact, we're 
slightly even under budget. I hesitate to say that because someone will 
find a way to get us up over it before you know it. [Laughter]
    This partnership really works. We give communities the resources 
that they need to put more police officers on the streets. Communities, 
in return, take responsibility to train and deploy those officers. In 
turn, the officers help ordinary citizens to find the commitment and the 
courage to do their part to fight against crime. That is the genius of 
community policing. It's a fight for the habits of our lives and the 
habits of our heart.
    We can't make our streets truly safe until everybody really is 
committed to doing their part, until you have the help you need from 
parents and teachers and friends and neighbors and from the role models 
that young people look up to, from actors, athletes, and others. Our 
responsibilities, of course, have to begin with our children.
    The evidence suggests today that you are making a lot of headway 
with the resources that your folks are giving you at the local level and 
with the crime bill. And I'm encouraged by that. In almost every major 
city in the country, the crime rate is down. In many major areas, the 
crime rate is down dramatically. In many smaller and medium sized 
cities, the crime rate is down.
    But we cannot be too optimistic because there are some troubling 
signs. First of all, in some major areas where the crime rate has gone 
down because you've been able to deploy more police resources, the crime 
rate has shifted into areas that aren't as well organized and aren't as 
well prepared for it. That's one of the reasons that, when the Congress 
passed the crime bill, they said we had to deploy these resources fairly 
and evenly across the country, not just in the bigger areas but in the 
smaller ones as well, because they knew this would happen. And sure 
enough, it has in some places.
    The other thing I want to point out is that even though the overall 
crime rate has gone down, the rate of random violence among young 
teenagers is going up. And I might say--I'm concerned about it--that the 
rate of casual drug use among teenagers is going up, even as the Justice 
Department has had unparalleled success in breaking big drug gangs and 
interrupting big drug sales and doing things that are a cause for great 
celebration. There is this troubling undertow because so many of our 
kids are still getting in trouble out there. And it's something we need 
to face.
    And I think it is a product, in part, of the chaos of modern times, 
from the breakdown of the family to the breakdown of order on the 
streets. And again I say, we have to find a way to take advantage of all 
these dramatic changes, which make us want to stay glued to the TV and 
watch the spaceships connect, which make us want to have free but fair 
trade with Japan and all other countries so all of us can benefit from 
that, but which have also brought so much disruption to the lives of 
Americans all over our country.

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    That's really what this is about. And it's going to require some 
level of contribution by every citizen. You know, I have listened to 
this debate, for example, over the Brady bill and over the assault 
weapons ban, from now to kingdom come. I could close my eyes and give 
you both sides of it in excruciating detail. But the truth is, it 
doesn't have anything to do with the right to keep and bear arms. It 
really has more to do with the way you view what it means to be an 
American in 1995. That is, some of our people really believe that the 
only problems we have in this country are personal misconduct and bad 
cultural trends, and if everybody would just shape up and behave, we'd 
be fine.
    Well, at one level that's true, isn't it? I mean, it's self-
evidently true. And it's something we shouldn't minimize because nothing 
we can do, any of us, will really have any impact on the lives of our 
people unless more people do the right thing. But to pretend that there 
are no actions we can take as a people in common that will make a 
difference is pure folly.
    And a lot of the people that object to the Brady bill and the 
assault weapons ban are people who say things like, ``Well, I'm not a 
criminal. I ought to have a right to have any kind of weapon I want, and 
I ought not to have to wait 5 minutes for it, much less 5 days. Just 
punish wrongdoers. Put them in jail. Throw away the key.'' But that 
ignores the fact that we have common responsibilities. And you see this 
running through every single contentious debate. ``Why should I wear a 
helmet when I get on my motorcycle? I'm not going to do anything dumb,'' 
or ``If I want to, if I want to put myself in danger, I ought to have 
the right to do it. Never mind what it does to the health care system. 
Never mind how it might traumatize somebody who might hit me by accident 
and paralyze me for life.''
    You see, this is the debate that's going on in our country all the 
time. And it's a big deal now. There's a huge number of people who 
believe that since all problems are purely personal or cultural, we 
don't have any common obligations. This is not a Republican-Democratic 
deal. It's not a liberal or conservative deal. It is really a--we're 
back to debating first principles in our country.
    And those of you who are in law enforcement, you can really help, 
because almost all Americans really respect you for what you do. They 
know you put lives on the line. They know you stick your necks out. They 
know you're doing something that you'll never get rich doing because you 
believe that it's the right thing to do.
    And you need to take every opportunity you can to say, ``Hey, you 
know, that's right. We need to punish wrongdoers. And we need to tell 
everybody to do the right thing, but there are things we can do in 
common that make a difference. And frankly, everybody who wants a 
handgun who's a law-abiding citizen ought to be willing to be put out 
the minor inconvenience it takes to wait a while so we can check and 
find the others who aren't.''
    You know, it is a small price to pay for being an American citizen 
living in the greatest country in the world and making a few more people 
safe. And people who are interested in sporting weapons ought to be 
willing to give up these assault weapons to get the Uzis out of the high 
schools. It is a small price to pay for living in the greatest country 
in the world and recognizing that we all have common responsibilities. 
We just don't all get to have our way simply because we're law-abiding.
    Now, that is the debate that's going on in this country today. And 
that's why this community policing is so important. It is a small price 
to pay to prevent things from going wrong so we don't have to punish 
even more kids who might have been more law-abiding had community 
policing been there in the first place. Yes, it's true that you also 
catch criminals quicker, but the real genius of community policing is 
that over the long run it helps to prevent crime. But it only works if 
we have a common decision to do something in common as a people.
    I cannot tell you how important I think this is. And of course, 
these problems have a very human face. Tomorrow I'm going to Chicago to 
honor one officer named Daniel Doffyn who was killed in the line of duty 
by a TEK-9, an assault weapon banned now by the assault weapons ban. I 
realize there may be some people out there who would like to have had 
these weapons. They're still better off being in America, and they can 
still have a whole arsenal in their homes, and it is a minor price to 
pay to be an American at this time facing our problems.
    You know, if we had mass starvation in this country because we 
couldn't grow enough food, we could all say, ``Well, everybody should be 
more responsible,'' but we'd find some common

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response to that. When they have an earthquake in California, everybody 
wants to go help them because we know that requires a common response. 
We have to start thinking about our persistent problems in this same 
way. That is really the fundamental debate we're having here in 
Washington today, goes way beyond partisan politics to how we are going 
to live as a people.
    And so I would say to you that--I'll give you another example, and 
this is controversial. A lot of people in my party and a lot of my 
friends don't agree with this. I think the Supreme Court did the right 
thing this week by upholding the right of schools to do drug testing on 
student athletes--I don't--because drug use is going up. Now, I believe 
that not because I think we should assume that kids are using drugs--
most kids are good kids, and they've got enough problems as it is 
without us looking down on them--not because I don't think they're 
entitled to their constitutional rights but because we know as an 
objective fact that casual drug use is going up among young people 
again. And it's wrong. It's crazy. It's not just illegal, it is 
dangerous for them.
    And you know, you don't have a right to be on the football team or 
the basketball team or in the band or do anything else. So I think it's 
like the Brady bill. It's like, ``Look, this is a hassle for you. We're 
asking you to do this for your country. We're not assuming you're a drug 
user. We're asking you to do this for your country. Do this because we 
need our kids to be drug-free.''
    And so, I'm proud of all of you. I am proud to be a part of this. I 
am proud that we are doing this today, and I am proud we've got over 
20,000 police officers. And we're on time; we're actually a little ahead 
of schedule.
    But I want you to go home and realize that this community policing 
debate and this debate about the assault weapons and this debate about 
the Brady bill is part of a huge, huge question that is now the dominant 
question every time they go to the floor to vote in the Congress on a 
controversial bill; this issue is behind almost every one of them. 
Because our problems at one level are personal and cultural, but they 
are also common: they are political; they are economic; they are social. 
And what we have to do is to find the right balance.
    And we cannot, any of us, go off in some sanctimonious huff, saying 
that just because we don't do anything wrong, we shouldn't be asked to 
contribute to our country. And I'm not just talking about paying taxes. 
Whether it's obeying the speed limit or wearing a helmet or obeying 
these gun laws, we all ought to recognize that what--we have to define 
the challenges of America at this time.
    And one of the biggest challenges is to make the American people 
feel more secure in a time of very rapid change. There is more 
opportunity out there for our people than ever before. But a lot of 
Americans are scared to death, for economic reasons and because of crime 
problems and other things. You, you are making a huge difference to 
    But when people see you with your uniforms, when they see you with 
these badges, then all these theoretical debates become very real. They 
know what you are. They know who you are. They know you're sticking up 
for them.
    And the more you can make the community policing program work, the 
more you can make people understand that you're not trying to take their 
liberties away by asking them to wait to check on the handguns ownership 
or by dealing with the assault weapons ban, the more we can bring the 
American people back into a consensus again that we have more personal 
liberty in this country than any other democracy in the world but that 
all of us have to pay a price to maintain our liberties, to maintain our 
freedom, to meet the challenges of this day.
    And frankly, when you look at it clear-headedly, it is a very small 
price indeed for the benefit of taking this country into the 21st 
century still the strongest country in the world. That's what the 
community policing is all about; that's what the Brady law is about; 
it's what the assault weapons ban is all about; it's what testing those 
kids in that school district is all about, for drugs; it's what a lot of 
these controversial issues we're trying to deal with are all about.
    So I ask you to go home and tell your folks that we want to preserve 
our liberties, we want to preserve our freedom, we want to enhance their 
security, but they have to make some modest contributions to this as 
well. That's what you're doing, and that's what we have to do.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:33 a.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive 
Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to R. Gil Kerlikowske, 
Buffalo, NY, police commissioner who presented the

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President with a Buffalo City Police Department shield; Mayor Rudolph 
Giuliani of New York City; Mayor Emanuel Cleaver II of Kansas City, MO; 
and Mayor Marion Barry of Washington, DC.