Director Wray Addresses International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference
Remarks as delivered.
Thank you, John.
It’s great to be here surrounded by so many friends and close partners.
This is my seventh straight year participating in the IACP Annual Conference, and it strikes me that, in many ways, our partnerships are stronger today than ever.
And I feel sure this is what Chief Webber Seavey had in mind back in 1893 when he called the first meeting of what was then the National Police Chiefs Union.
That year, 51 chiefs met in Chicago to look for better ways to fight crime across the country by working together.
It’s in that spirit of cooperation that IACP and the FBI formed such a close bond, going all the way back to the Bureau’s creation in 1908.
It’s a partnership that’s been instrumental to both organizations, and one that remains close today—115 years later.
The reason our relationships are so strong —both between IACP and the FBI and among the agencies we represent—is because we share the same values and commitment to working tirelessly and selflessly to protect our fellow citizens.
Through our partnerships, we’re constantly looking for better ways to fulfill our critical, shared mission and protect the ones we serve.
But we’re not just bound by a common mission, we also face similar challenges that bring us even closer together. Whether it’s the budget constraints we all face from time to time, the recruiting challenges so many state and local departments continue to deal with, or the recent attacks on our institutions and, worse yet, our people.
Although the challenges we face may take different forms, in today’s world, no agency or department is immune.
In that too, there’s no doubt that we’re all in this together.
And I’m confident that through the partnerships we’ve built over decades—relationships that are stronger now than ever—we can tackle any threat and overcome any challenge working together.
Before I get into some of the specific ways we’re doing that work together, I want to take a moment to offer my heartfelt condolences to the people of Israel, and share the outrage that I know we all feel at the sheer brutality and disregard for innocent lives there.
History has been witness to antisemitic and other forms of violent extremism for far too long.
Whether that be from foreign terrorist organizations, or those inspired by them, or domestic violent extremists motivated by their own racial animus, the targeting of a community because of their faith is totally unacceptable.
We remain committed to continue confronting those threats—both here in the United States and overseas.
In this heightened environment, there’s no question we’re seeing an increase in reported threats, and we’ve got to be on the lookout, especially for lone actors who may take inspiration from recent events to commit violence of their own.
So I encourage you to stay vigilant, because as the first line of defense in protecting our communities, you’re often the first to see the signs that someone may be mobilizing to violence.
And I’d also ask you to continue sharing any intelligence or observations you may have.
And on our end, we’re committed to doing the same, so that together, we can safeguard our communities.
Partnerships on Crime: Surging Federal Resources
That’s something we have a long and successful history of doing together.
And there’s no threat where that collaboration is more important than violent crime, a topic that remains front and center in the constant discussions I have with all of you when I travel around the country.
Like you, we’ve been laser focused on combatting the violence that’s infecting so many of our communities, and we’re committed to continuing to work alongside you in that fight.
In what we’ve seen as a terrible rise in violent crime over the past few years, we’ve strategically surged resources to communities that have been hit particularly hard.
One way we’ve done that is by deploying FBI agents to help state agencies clear out their backlogs.
For instance, we sent agents to Tucson in July to reduce the number of old state warrants and work side-by-side with state and local police to take criminals off the street and seize their firearms.
That took us about six months from planning to deployment to wrapping everything up, and resulted in more than 70 arrests.
And we plan to repeat that model soon in other cities, and to get even faster.
We’ve also pushed resources to double down on joint efforts that have proven successful in the past.
Take Houston as an example—together, we built on what was already great work at the Texas Anti-Gang Center; a place where FBI agents and task force officers are within arm’s reach of their counterparts from the Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, ATF, the U.S. Marshals Service, DEA, HSI—all in the same physical facility.
Starting a year ago, the Bureau surged additional agents, analysts, and forensic experts to Houston as part of a violence-reduction initiative.
And what was key in Houston, is that we had prosecutors on board who were ready, willing, and able to bring significant racketeering charges to put the criminals terrorizing communities away for a long time.
We quickly made arrests and brought indictments against the 100% Third Ward Gang.
And that went along with a number of other law enforcement initiatives, including positive community engagements.
By February, the Houston Police Department reported a drop of more than 10% in overall crime, in just five months.
But we’re not just focused on big cities.
Last month, we began surging resources to tribal areas, sending special agents, intelligence analysts, and victim specialists to focus specifically on crimes affecting Native American women and children.
And those efforts are already starting to bear fruit.
In one case, for example, we were able to track down enough information to get a confession in a cold case.
Our goal is to build on results like that—committing FBI resources to work some of the hardest cases and letting people who often feel neglected know that they have not been forgotten.
And our redoubled efforts against criminals extend to our international partnerships, too.
One of our most heartbreaking cases recently was that of 17-year-old Jordan DeMay of Marquette, Michigan.
Jordan was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in March of last year.
His case led to our Detroit office identifying an increase in incidents of financially motivated sextortion, where abusers tricked or coerced child sexual abuse material out of their victims, and then extorted money from those kids—mostly young boys, threatening to tell others what they had done or make their pictures public.
Even going so far as to push these young victims to take their own lives if they couldn’t pay—some of whom, like Jordan, ultimately, and tragically, did.
As difficult as it is for them, Jordan’s family wants us to talk about him, to help educate other families and prevent more victims.
So our Detroit office has started a national campaign to warn children about these dangers.
And they’ve led an international effort across multiple continents to track down Jordan’s tormentors.
That effort eventually led to a joint operation with one of counterparts—the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
And in August, that team successfully extradited two men from Nigeria to face prosecution for sexually extorting numerous young men and teenage boys across the U.S.—including Jordan DeMay.
That work not only put criminals behind bars, it also sent a message that we are going to tenaciously pursue those who prey on kids—even leveraging our international relationships to bring them back here to the U.S. from overseas to face justice.
Of course, as great as surges and special initiatives are, we can’t always count on those who ultimately control our budgets to see the wisdom of providing the resources we need to support and sustain those efforts.
Now I’m not going to even try to make sense of the political climate we’re all having to operate in—I’m going to leave those conversations for another time.
But that context puts a premium on partnership and leveraging our collective resources to maximize impact.
And the best tool we have in our toolkit to do just that, and to have a lasting impact, is our FBI task forces.
We’re now up to more than 6,000 task force officers from hundreds of departments and agencies across the country, All working together to combat things like violent crime, gangs, drugs, organized crime, and child exploitation.
In the last 12 months alone the FBI and different law enforcement partners arrested nearly 18,000 violent criminals and child predators. That’s almost 50 bad guys we took off the street per day, every day together.
And I remain humbled that so many of you are willing to entrust your outstanding officers and investigators to serve on our task forces—knowing that you don’t have personnel and resources to spare but that you realize the tremendous value of our collaboration.
Small Town Wins: Charleston West Virginia, and Brunswick, Georgia
And that’s true in communities large and small.
This year, we worked with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies around Charleston, West Virginia, in one of the largest illegal narcotics investigations in that state’s history, about 300 officers and agents total.
That investigation seized more than a hundred kilos of meth, loads of deadly fentanyl powder, thousands of fentanyl pills, firearms, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, and resulted in close to 50 arrests.
That operation—and so many others like it—make a real difference to the people who live in communities like Charleston.
Or take the work of our Coastal Georgia Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force, run out of our Brunswick, Georgia, satellite office.
In January, that task force arrested 74 members of the Ghost Face Gangsters and seized a number of illegal guns and drugs.
That takedown didn’t make national headline; but what matters—to me, to you, and to the people of coastal Georgia—is that just three months after that law enforcement action, the Brunswick Police Department reported a 50% reduction in fentanyl overdoses.
That’s making a difference in people’s lives.
Another big part of the violent crime problem that I’ve compared notes on with many of you is that more and more, the offenders responsible for so much of the violence we’re seeing are juveniles.
The national crime statistics the FBI plans to release this coming week confirm what we’ve all felt for some time, and that is that the number of juveniles committing violent crimes is on the rise.
Whether it’s carjackings, armed robberies, or even worse violence—juveniles committing serious violent crimes is a challenge we all face.
And on top of that, I can tell you, hardly a week goes by when I’m not briefed on a juvenile here in the United States motivated to commit violence by some foreign terrorist organization or other ideology.
Now, while I’m sure we all agree that our young people can benefit from services and community outreach and prevention programs, at the same time, there are repeat violent offenders who have to be held accountable, even if they are juveniles.
And we need to work together, with prosecutors at all levels—federal, state and local—to make sure that criminal prosecution is an effective deterrent.
Innovations: IMD and CAST
But partnership is about more than just going after the bad guys and making arrests.
It’s also about bringing everyone’s expertise and unique capabilities to the fight.
For our part, today more than ever, that includes keeping pace with emerging trends and technologies, and sharing those with all of you to make sure our collective response remains agile.
Take how we collect, handle, and use law enforcement data for instance.
Our Information Management Division recently processed, extracted, and converted 100,000 digital images to help our state and local partners in New York working the Gilgo Beach serial killer case.
Another asset we’ve increasingly been sharing with our partners is CAST. That’s the Cellular Analysis Survey Team.
For anybody who may not be familiar with the program, CAST provides location information for cellular devices. We use CAST teams to locate fugitives, or determine whether a suspect was nearby when a crime occurred. We have CAST assets around the country that can support every threat we cover, along with serious violent crimes investigated by agencies like yours.
Last year, CAST members provided expert testimony in over 400 criminal trials. They assisted in more than 5,000 cases and analyzed 26,000 or so sets of call detail records—just in one year.
And while CAST is of course an invaluable resource for federal investigations, the vast majority of that team’s work is to support state cases where there’s no federal prosecutorial interest.
CAST was used, for instance, in the recent kidnapping of that nine-year-old girl in the Albany area.
A task force officer who’d graduated from CAST certification school just a week earlier used analysis of the subject’s cell phone and car to place him near the crime scene.
That information helped investigators get the search warrants that ultimately led to that little girl’s safe recovery.
And in September, we used CAST to locate and recover another minor who’d been kidnapped and held for ransom by a cartel to settle a drug debt—and in the process, we arrested the three kidnappers.
But we’re finding more and more innovative uses for CAST, like helping to find people who have gone missing after natural disasters.
I’m talking about things like tornadoes in the South and Midwest, or the recent devastating fires in Maui.
That’s just one more example of the ways we’re trying to put talent and innovation into action quickly to make a real difference in communities—large and small—all around the country and the world.
Another important part of our partnership over the years has been the sharing of ideas, best practices, and innovative concepts across the profession.
Now a lot of you in this audience are graduates of our FBI National Academy.
What you may not know is that National Academy dates all the way back to 1935 and owes much of its early success to the support and buy-in of IACP.
We later built on that foundation to add LEEDs, the Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar for mid-sized agencies, and then in just the past few years, we added the National Command Course to reach even smaller departments.
All in an effort to raise law enforcement standards and strengthen partnerships and networks across the board.
Danger to LEOs
Before I close, I want to touch on one final subject.
And that’s the danger our men and women face each and every day.
Tragically, the number of officers killed and assaulted in the line of duty continues to increase each year.
Already this year, there have been 50 law enforcement officers feloniously killed in the line of duty.
That is right in line with last year when we had one of the highest totals in a decade, and comes just two years after we saw the highest number of officers murdered on the job since 9/11 .
The number of brave men and women killed on the job is extremely troubling, and it’s an issue that I think does not get anywhere near the attention it deserves.
I can tell you I’m out there trying to raise awareness on this topic every chance I get, and I know a lot of you are, as well.
But beyond raising awareness, we’re taking concrete steps to try to make our agents and officers safer.
To take just one example, we’re working to build out the Violent Person File within NCIC.
So the same repository that has the Wanted Persons, Sex Offenders, and Missing Persons files.
At the moment, we’ve got almost 16,000 dangerous people listed in that file.
That’s 16,000 people who may have a propensity for violence against law enforcement officers.
I don’t have to convince any of you how critical that information can be for an officer running a check before approaching a stopped vehicle or responding to a domestic violence call.
So I encourage you to continue submitting data on people with a violent criminal history or who have made credible threats.
And just getting our Violent Person File populated more comprehensively could make the difference between life and death for one of your officers when they make a stop some late night.
And that’s the most important reason we’re working together—to save lives.
There’s no question these are challenging times for law enforcement.
The jobs you and your people have devoted their lives to aren’t easy—even in the best of circumstances.
And these days, we often find ourselves operating in less than ideal circumstances—and that’s putting it mildly.
But we’ve been through other difficult times, and I’m confident that by working together we’ll continue to get the job done—and done well—for the people we all serve.
Our partnerships are stronger than they’ve ever been, and you have my commitment that from the FBI’s perspective, we’re going to make sure that remains true.
We recognize the immense responsibility you carry, and I’m incredibly grateful for your unwavering resolve in the face of challenging situations.
I’m proud of the difference every department here is making in the lives of Americans—in small towns and big cities alike—and in the lives of everyday people all around the world.
And the FBI will continue to stand with you and your officers in protecting the people we serve.