Wednesday, April 17, 2024
22.4 C
Los Angeles

Director Wray’s Remarks to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives’ Training Conference & Exhibition — FBI

OpinionDirector Wray's Remarks to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives' Training Conference & Exhibition — FBI

Violent Crime

Take violent crime—whether it’s gangs terrorizing communities, robbery crews graduating from carjackings to even worse violence, or neighborhoods along key drug trafficking routes being inundated with crime. The drivers are varied and at times hard to pinpoint, but what is clear is that the best way—really the only way—to effectively tackle the violent crime problem is the same across the board. And that’s by working together, leveraging our collective strengths, resources, and authorities to better protect our communities.

Our FBI-led task forces are an essential tool for combatting violent crime—and those, of course, are made up of and led by folks like all of you. We now have more than 5,000 task force officers from hundreds of different departments and agencies across the country focused on fighting violent crime.

When you and your colleagues entrust your outstanding officers, deputies, and investigators to serve on our task forces, I know it’s not because you don’t have enough work to go around in your own departments. It’s because you see the value of the impact we can have when we work together. And working shoulder-to-shoulder with your folks through those task forces, we are having an impact.

Last year alone, we arrested 20,000 violent criminals and child predators—that’s almost 60 bad guys we’re taking off the streets per day, every day. We seized more than 9,600 firearms from those violent offenders, cut into the capabilities of 3,500 gangs and violent criminal enterprises, and completely dismantled 370 more.


Partnerships are also key to our collective efforts to combat the scourge of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs that claim far too many lives in communities nationwide. Working together, we’re running well over 300 investigations targeting the leadership of the cartels trafficking dangerous drugs into this country. And this year alone, we’ve already seized hundreds of kilograms of fentanyl, stopping deadly drugs from reaching their intended destinations in states across the U.S. and saving countless American lives.

We’re working with CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] to advance border-related investigations to further disrupt the supply chain. We’re leading the JCODE [Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement] Task Force to help our partners disrupt and dismantle darknet drug traffickers. And we’re actively participating on 17 OCDETF [Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force] Strike Forces throughout the country.

But numbers alone don’t tell the whole story—to truly appreciate the impact we’re having together, you have to look at the cases.

Right here, in Cleveland, for instance, the Cleveland Strike Force, made up of a whole slew of state and federal partners, recently took down a transnational drug trafficking organization that was delivering fentanyl and other drugs across the country by the truckload. This group, which was associated with the Sinaloa Cartel, was sending trucks laden with drugs from California to Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, with those trucks then returning to California full of illicit cash.

In this one case, we seized about 30 kilograms of fentanyl—enough lethal doses to kill more than the entire population of Ohio. And that’s just one case.

As you all know better than most, these types of fentanyl seizures are happening with alarming and increasing frequency all over the country.


On the counterterrorism front, too, the threat has evolved in ways that demand even stronger partnerships between the FBI and state and local departments like the ones so many of you in the room represent.

For years now, folks have heard me say that the greatest CT [counterterrorism] threat we face in the U.S. is posed by lone actors. That includes what we call homegrown violent extremists—individuals largely global jihad-inspired—and domestic violent extremists—people who commit violence in furtherance of what’s often a mix of domestic issues and ideologies, like racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists.

But both of those types of lone actors—HVEs and DVEs—are quite different from the coordinated terrorist cells many of you remember from the 9/11 era. And because these violent extremists act alone or maybe with only one or two others and move so quickly from radicalization to action, they don’t leave a lot of “dots” for those of us in law enforcement to connect or a lot of time for us to connect them.

And to make matters worse, we often see them use easily-obtainable weapons like a firearm, a knife, a crude IED, or even something like a car against “soft targets”—which is really just Intelligence-community-speak for everyday people, going about their everyday lives.

In other words, we’re seeing these attackers gravitate towards weapons that are easy to obtain but hard to trace and targets that are not difficult to attack but can be challenging to defend. And as you know all too well, we’re seeing angry, disaffected people—the guy living in his parents’ basement, not that there’s anything wrong with that—who’s got nothing but time, and who can easily find like-minded individuals online—clear across the country or even across the globe—who provide a sense of community and validation that didn’t exist before. Social media serves as a sort of accelerant, facilitating access to propaganda and training materials and providing a means for recruitment, target selection, incitement, and even operational planning.

I say all of that because those realities in today’s threat landscape place an even greater premium on our work with your folks—the people who know their communities like the back of their hands and serve on the frontlines, if you will, as the eyes and ears in the fight against terrorism.


But what about the cyber threat? Almost every week now, the news features some large-scale, globe-spanning operation and takedown—and we’re proud of those, to be sure. But the cyber threat can’t be adequately addressed without collaboration across all levels of law enforcement, which is why we’ve set up Cyber Task Forces in all 56 of our field offices, a lot like the Joint Terrorism Task Forces you’re familiar with and your folks may have been a part of for some time now.

The task force model allows us to share information more quickly, surge resources where they’re most needed, and collaborate with our partners more effectively. And these task forces not only serve as a powerful way for us to collaborate and work cases together, but also have the benefit of helping our teams share expertise and develop skills that can help us all address the growing cyber problem going forward. And that’s critical for a couple of reasons.

For starters, we all know firsthand that we’re stronger and more effective when we’re working together—there’s your theme again. These cyber task forces facilitate quicker information sharing on the cyber threat—really just mirroring the successes we’ve seen from our Joint Terrorism Task Forces for more than 20 years now. But they also give us an opportunity to enhance everyone’s ability to combat what I’ll call “middle-market” cybercrime.

We’re finding more and more that state and local law enforcement agencies, like those you represent, are getting very good at handling a lot of cybercrime in your local AORs [areas of responsibility]. And we at the FBI are, I think, pretty well-known for tackling some of the most complex intrusion sets that may require specialized expertise or expensive technology to comprehensively investigate.

But what I think we’re missing is that piece in the middle—those cyber investigations that require specialized knowledge, training, and skills that the FBI has, but that don’t meet the threshold for federal prosecution, for whatever reason.

So in my mind, one of the key benefits of the Cyber Task Forces is that the state and local officers who participate in them learn by doing, working alongside our cyber-trained agents to develop the expertise to handle these cases themselves, so when they go back to their departments, they can help us all better fill that gap.

Because ultimately, our goal is not only to increase the number of trained cyber experts in state and local law enforcement agencies across the country, but also to enhance law enforcement’s overall capacity to address cybercrime across the board, which is good for everybody.

Bottom line, with all of the threats we face, I couldn’t agree more that we’re stronger together, and while there’s certainly a lot more work to be done, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far working together toward our shared goal of keeping people safe.


Before I close this morning, I want to make a point about another key way we maximize our impact—and that’s with data. Making sure we have the right data and that we’re putting it to good use.

At the FBI, crime reporting is something we’re constantly working to improve. Our annual crime statistics for 2021, for instance, confirmed something you all know firsthand—that after a big jump in 2020, the number of violent crimes, including murders, remained alarmingly high in 2021. We’re working on compiling the 2022 report for release in a few months so that we can understand what’s going on and tailor resources based on the data, but I know from talking and working with you that the violent crime problem certainly hasn’t gone away in 2023.

It’s been two years since the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program—or UCR— transitioned to having data reported exclusively through NIBRS, and we’ve made a lot of progress in terms of participation. Every state, plus Guam, is now NIBRS-certified.

As you may have heard me say before, that’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that with the transition to NIBRS-only reporting, we had a 22% drop last year in enrolled agencies that actually provided reporting. That meant we had gaps—gaps that we’re working hard to rectify in our next data set, but with more antiquated SRS, or Summary Reporting System, data.

Now, you shouldn’t interpret the use of limited SRS data for 2022 as a retreat from the transition to NIBRS—we’re full speed ahead with NIBRS. We’re only using the SRS data as a temporary way to help bridge the gap because of the momentum we built toward completing the transition. But what we really need to do now is bring everyone on board.

Fortunately, as of 2022, 13,490 law enforcement agencies—that’s more than 71%—are now enrolled in NIBRS, and we’re on track to surpass those numbers and continue doing better for 2023. But we need everyone not only enrolled, but actually participating and reporting data through NIBRS, because it’s data from all of your agencies and departments that makes the reporting useful and valuable.

NIBRS helps answer a lot of questions—about individual incidents, about trends, about offender relationships, and so much more. It can also help us determine where best to deploy our already-scarce resources. And I know I don’t need to tell this group that law enforcement resources and manpower are not infinite. But armed with data, we have a much better idea of where our resources are needed the most.

Ultimately, by contributing data, you’re not just helping us—you’re helping and supporting every other chief and sheriff across the country and the citizens they serve. Now I understand these transitions can be challenging and take time, resources, and dedicated effort from your departments and agencies—resources that are already scarce—so wherever we can assist, we’re happy to help.

Mental Health

There’s just one more thing I want to mention before I close.

The key to everything we do is our people—the brave men and women of law enforcement who devote their careers—their lives, really—to helping others—and, as you all know firsthand, often at great personal sacrifice.

There are any number of important topics we could talk about when it comes to our people, and I know many of those were covered over the course of your conference.

Whether it’s doing everything we can to recruit and retain that special kind of person willing to give his or her life to protect others or ensuring that our workforces reflect the communities we serve—a value that’s well-reflected in your mission to ensure equity in the administration of justice, and one we’re constantly striving to achieve in the Bureau, as well.

Any one of those topics could fill an entire speech—or an entire conference, really—but in the few minutes I have left, I want to touch on a topic that has become increasingly important to me in my time as FBI Director: the health and wellness of our people.

Within the FBI, I’ve been asking our leaders to foster an environment where it’s okay to admit to not being OK—make it OK to ask for help—because I would argue you’re a stronger person if you can recognize the stress of the job and process it than if you ignore it and bury it. I would ask you to do the same, as so many of your workshop leaders have discussed here this week. Set the example when the stress and the grind of your day jobs take hold again. Take care of yourself, too.

This is more than just a talking point for us in the Bureau.

As part of our work to better understand and protect all of our nation’s law enforcement officers, I’ve asked our folks in CJIS—the same people who run NIBRS—to start collecting data on the instances when officers attempt to take their own lives. We started collecting data on law enforcement suicides in 2022, but it was limited to 22 agencies reporting nationwide, with 32 suicides and nine attempts.

This is a problem we need a lot more data on if we’re going to try to understand and change what’s happening in our profession. So, I’d ask every department represented here to participate and to help spread the message about our law enforcement suicide repository. The information we glean and share could literally save lives.

We can’t read too much into very limited data, but here’s one line from the report: “Of the 32 reported suicides, only 19% of agencies reported the absence of any warning signs or indications to colleagues or the agency prior to the incident.”

Put simply: Four out of every five gave some kind of warning that their coworkers noticed.

Again, we have to make it OK to say you’re not OK. I think that’s just one more way that we’re “stronger together”—on a personal level, as well as at an agency level. Sometimes, that might mean lending a sympathetic ear. Sometimes, it might mean encouraging your friend and colleague to talk to someone about the stresses of life and the job. Sometimes, it might just be saying, “Hey: It’s OK to not be OK.”

Because that could make a difference. It could literally save a life.


So, that’s the thought I want to wrap up with here this morning.

Law enforcement remains one of the hardest careers out there, and it’s not getting any easier.

These are tough times in our profession, but I honestly believe there’s no higher calling, no better work.

Thank you for choosing and devoting yourselves to that work—and I want to thank your colleagues for choosing it, too.

Because there’s no question that we’re stronger—and more effective at protecting the American people—together.

It’s an honor to serve alongside you.

Story from

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

Check out our other content


Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles