Paul M. Abbate
Deputy Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives
Miami, FL
April 20, 2022

Deputy Director’s Remarks to National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives

Remarks prepared for delivery.


Thank you, Deputy Chief Lokey, for that kind introduction, and for the opportunity to be here with you all today.

Good morning, everyone.

I’m honored to join my colleagues on this panel—I’ve really enjoyed hearing everyone’s insightful remarks, so thank you.

To start, I wanted to take a look back in history to the early 1970s.

Back then our nation was in the final stages of the Vietnam War. The U.S. economy was about to hit stagnation, and the Watergate scandal was around the corner.

In short, it was a tumultuous time for our country.

It was also a time of firsts for the FBI, an eventful time for the us.

On May 12th, 1972—50 years ago next month—FBI Acting Director L. Patrick Gray announced that for the first time ever, the FBI would open the special agent position to female applicants.

That announcement ended a long era of policies that excluded women and prevented them from serving as agents.

By the end of that year, the FBI would welcome a total of 11 women agents.

And so began an era of firsts in the FBI.

Between 1972 and 2001, the FBI saw:

  • The first woman African American special agent,
  • The first woman firearms instructor,
  • and the first women legal attachés, first woman special agent in charge of a field office, and the first women to attain the ranks of assistant director and executive assistant director at Headquarters.

And 50 years on, we’re fortunate to have women heading field offices; serving at the highest levels at HQ; leading squads working counterterrorism, cyber, counterintelligence, and major criminal investigations; serving as firearms instructors, bomb techs, and crisis negotiators; and leading FBI offices around the world.

Diversity Initiatives

Although the FBI has come a long way since that 1972 advancement, the reality is it wasn’t all that long ago.

And we’re still working hard to remove barriers and create a reflective workforce—not just in terms of gender, but across a full spectrum of diversity.

There is a long way to go and a tremendous amount of work to be done.

The FBI is focused on recruiting and building a diverse workforce—one that reflects all the communities we serve, building the kind of teams that bring the right mix of different perspectives to the table

Women now make up 45% of our workforce overall and nearly a quarter of our senior executive positions.

And I’m encouraged to report that over the past several years, our special agent applicants have been more diverse than the U.S. population as a whole.

The female special agent percentage has been rising in NAT classes over the last 2-3 years.

In fact, our classes at Quantico now have more women, more underrepresented minorities, and more people of varied backgrounds and life experiences than ever before.

We’ve also increased our recruiting initiatives at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and are expanding our recruiting focus to other minority-serving institutions. And we’ve been hard at work improving how we develop, promote, and mentor our personnel once they’re onboard.

It is taking time, but I’m confident we’re headed in the right direction.

I’m proud that the FBI is addressing this important issue, but I know that we can do even better, and we will.

Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because bringing together a wide array of perspectives is key to building trust, credibility, and meeting today’s increasingly complex and evolving threats and protecting people.

Violent Crime

One of the threats we’re all concerned about is the increase in violent crime.

We’re all seeing a disturbing trend in rising violent crime across the country.

There’s an increase in gun violence, homicides, and aggravated assaults, all occurring at an appalling pace.

There are also hate crimes and the persistent threat posed by violent extremists. 2020 incident-based crime data, which was released late last year, contains some troubling statistics.

Overall violent crime—which includes not only murder but also assault, robbery, and rape—rose by more than 5%.

Percentages can seem abstract, but when you attach the numbers, become more staggering: There were 65,000 additional violent crime incidents in 2020 than there were in 2019.

That’s 65,000 more people victimized by violent crime than in the year before, and each one, as we all know, with families, sorrow, and trauma.

And homicides jumped nearly 30% in 2020—the largest single-year increase recorded in 50 years.

Today’s violent crime problem is taking the lives of too many innocent people, tearing apart too many communities, and denying too many Americans the basic right to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods.

Given that, at all levels of government, our most fundamental duty is to safeguard people’s right to live without fear of violence.

I can assure you that at the FBI we are committed to leveraging are using all of our tools and resources and working strategically and operationally with agencies like yours to meet that duty.

You undoubtedly have thoughts of your own about how we can best do that, and we’re eager to hear them, but I can tell you we’re laser-focused on working with you through the hundreds of task forces we host throughout the country.

They include:

  • More than 50 Violent Crimes Task Forces,
  • 175 Safe Streets Gang Task Forces with nearly 2,000 TFOs,
  • 22 Safe Trails Task Forces, and
  • More than 100 Transnational Organized Crime Task Forces with nearly 600 members.

For some of the cities hit hardest by the recent surge, we’re boosting those efforts by temporarily surging resources to our field offices.

That includes investigative, analytical, and technical resources, who embed with FBI and Task Force personnel and support existing initiatives with our law enforcement partners, all designed to make an immediate, measurable impact on violent crime.

Depending on where they are, the teams might focus on helping to get violent gun offenders off the streets, targeting commercial robbery crews, or taking aim at drug-trafficking gangs and criminal enterprises.

To date, we have surged resources to six cities and offices—Buffalo, Milwaukee, Louisville, Memphis, San Juan, and a current deployment in San Francisco.

And collectively, in a relatively short period of time, these deployments have helped lead to nearly 150 arrests and the seizure of over 70 firearms from violent criminals. And we’re seeing some promising trends.

During the deployments, homicides decreased by 50% in Buffalo. And in Milwaukee, homicides went down 17%, and non-fatal shootings fell by 28%.

We’re going to continue surging resources like this to help, support, and assist you in any way we can. And we’ll keep assessing where our support will most help our partners like you to continue cracking down on violent crime.

Our goal is to make a lasting impact, so our communities are safer places to live and work.

Threats to Law Enforcement

With that, it is recognized that the violent crime threat is not just affecting the communities we serve—it's also making the law enforcement profession even more dangerous.

Sadly, last year 73 law enforcement officers were feloniously killed on the job, the highest single-year number since 9/11.

And that doesn’t account for those lost to the pandemic or in accidental deaths, those killed while they weren’t on duty, or the scores of officers who were injured but thankfully survived.

It is striking that a record number of those officers killed—nearly half—had no engagement with their assailant before the attack.

They were ambushed while sitting in their vehicles, attacked while on patrol, or lured out into the open and killed.

So far in 2022, 14 more officers have been murdered in the line of duty.

Each one of those officers got up each morning, put on their badge and bravely ventured out knowing the risks they would face.

They did their jobs despite all the hardships encountered in these especially difficult past few years because they were devoted to protecting their fellow Americans and keeping communities safe.

Keeping our people safe is our highest priority. Law enforcement is dangerous enough. Wearing a badge and serving the public shouldn’t make someone a target. 

You’ve heard Director Wray address this issue whenever he speaks and we intend to continue sounding the alarm and bringing attention to this issue, and continuing to work with you to counter this horrible trend and take every action to best protect our people.

Data Collection Programs

When it comes to meeting this threat and the many others we face, it’s imperative we continue to increase cooperation and share information with each other.

In support of that, we need to build a complete picture of the situation and environment.

We need concrete information and transparency into what’s really going on in our communities; we need accurate, objective data; data that will allow for an increased understanding of the threat picture, and that will help mitigate the many threats we face.

As many may know, we’ve transitioned to the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS data collection program.

It is more detailed, provides more comprehensive data, and is more streamlined and easier to use.

NIBRS-only reporting has been up and running for over a year, and we’ve reached nearly 12,000 law enforcement agencies, 63%, reporting their data.

If you're participating, thank you.

And if not, I encourage you to do so, by contributing data, you’ll be helping the entire law enforcement community become more informed and intentional in how we approach our work.

The same goes for Use-of-Force data collection, also a top priority.

The goal is to provide a comprehensive view of the circumstances, subjects, and officers involved in use-of-force incidents nationwide.

We’ve now got agencies representing over 60% of law enforcement officers contributing data.

That means in the very near future, we’ll be able to release the first statistics on the use of force. Data that shows the types of force used and resistance encountered, as well as the overall percentages for types of incidents and reasons for initial contact.

Once the 80% mark is reached, we’ll be able to share even more data and insight into use-of-force incidents; able to gain insights that improve safety, trust, and transparency; and we can give the public the necessary facts—and, through transparency hopefully, strengthen our nation’s confidence in law enforcement.

Importance of Partnerships

Sharing data—working to understand our common challenges—is a way for us to work together as one law enforcement community.

And that’s more important now than ever before.

We at the Bureau are committed to building upon the already strong partnerships we share and creating new ones.

It’s not enough to just rely on what is already in place.

We have to go further, to complement one another and be truly integrated.

A few moments ago, I mentioned the violent crime task forces, but we’ve also got Joint Terrorism Task Forces, Cyber Task Forces, and Counterintelligence Task Forces. They’re in every one of our 56 field offices.

Each task force has FBI agents working side by side with federal, state, and local partners.

Those task forces only work because we have shared commitment to work with one another and because we mutually commit our best personnel to these joint endeavors.

We value the teamwork between us beyond any specific threat.

Our SACs should have established close relationships with each of you, and be keeping the lines of communication open.

We’re focused on building relationships with partners now, so when there’s a crisis, those connections are already in place.

If you don’t feel like you have a strong enough relationship with your local FBI office, I want to hear about it, and I want to get that moving in the right direction.

You can also reach out to us through our Office of Partner Engagement, or OPE who are here today.

OPE maintains our vital relationships with the law enforcement community, including this association and coordinates closely with federal, state, local, tribal, and other partners across the country.

I invite you to take advantage of OPE’s programs, including intelligence training, active shooter training, and the Police Executive Fellowship Program, just to name a few.

And I encourage you to stay in touch with your OPE liaison to let us know how we can best support you.

Information Sharing

Another priority of ours is to keep information and intelligence flowing to partners.

Our goal is to share information from across the spectrum and ensure we’re all working as a team to help identify and stop the threats plaguing our communities.

Last July, the FBI hosted an Intelligence Sharing Summit for state and local law enforcement leaders from across the country.

Partners specifically pointed out that our intelligence products related to emerging threats and issues are welcome and useful, and that people value the unclassified sitreps we disseminate during critical incidents.

They also provided some valuable feedback on how we can do better, and we’re already using it, so thank you for the honesty and transparency.

We’re continuing to examine our engagement, information sharing processes, intelligence collaboration and dissemination, and best practices, as well as the barriers that stand in the way and make our partnerships less effective than they could be.

We fully intend to repeat this process of engagement and implement lessons learned to build.


I’ve had the good fortune and great privilege of working for a number of women leaders in the FBI at HQ and in the field. I’m better for that and grateful to each of them for their support, mentorship, and all that I learned from them.

Just recently last month, the FBI hosted Cathy Lanier, former chief of police at the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, as our guest speaker for Women’s History Month.

Cathy is a longtime friend and partner of ours, and she’s someone I worked closely with during my time at the Washington Field Office.

Cathy is remarkable and the epitome of everything I admire and aspire to in leadership.

Like those first women special agents and field office leaders mentioned earlier, Cathy’s also a first.

In 2007, at age 39, after serving as lieutenant, captain, inspector and commander, she became the first woman to be named chief of MPD, one of the nation’s highest-profile police departments.

Not only was she the city’s first woman police chief—and the city’s longest-serving chief—but she and her team were credited with transforming the city, marking a turning point by bringing significant increases in public safety and security to DC.

When she spoke to our workforce last month, she said, “I wanted to change our reputation as the murder capital of the nation, our character and our tactics. It was clear what had to be done.”

That resolve and commitment, hallmarks of Cathy’s leadership, continue to inspire.

As chief, Cathy was always on scene, leading from the front, visible, and constantly communicating with and reassuring the public during every incident and every major event.

She was hands-on and everywhere all the time.

In my mind, that’s what it takes to protect and serve our communities and to be a good partner.

It means asking: What can we do more of? How can we be better?

It means sharing more information, strengthening existing partnerships, and establishing new ones, and yes, being everywhere all the time.

We look forward to strong, continued partnerships with all of you, so we can support each other in the important work of keeping America and its citizens safe.

Thanks to each of you for your fearlessness, for your originality, for your leadership, for your determination, sacrifices, and thank you for everything you do.

Thank you for all you do for your agencies/departments and for the American people every day.

It’s a privilege to join you here, and I hope to see you again very soon.

Stay well and be safe.

Thank you and God bless.