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Teleconference Remarks on Community Policing Grants and an Exchange With Reporters

December 20, 1993

The President. It's nice to hear all of you. I'm here with the Vice President and Attorney General Reno and our Drug Director, Lee Brown, to congratulate all of you for working so hard to help make your communities and, of course, our country safer again. Today I'm proud to announce that the six of you on this phone, along with the leaders of 68 other cities and towns all across the country, will receive the first grants to put more police on the street and expand community policing.

The Justice Department received applications from more than 1,000 communities across our Nation, and the proposals we got for community policing from your police departments were truly outstanding. I know these grants are simply a downpayment on our pledge to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets. It's just the beginning. As soon as Congress comes back in 1994, I want them to send me a crime bill that finishes that job and puts 100,000 more police on the street, expands boot camps and drug courts like the one the Attorney General started in Miami, gets handguns out of the hands of minors, and bans assault weapons.

Earlier this month, as all of you know, I signed the Brady bill which broke 7 years of gridlock on this issue. And we just can't afford to wait any longer for the crime bill. In the meanwhile I'm excited about what you're doing because we know community policing works. It worked for our Drug Director, Lee Brown, in Houston and New York, and it's working all across the country.

So I want to just thank all of you very much and say that I wish I could be there with you today. I wish I could see your police officers. And I hope you'll tell them all that help is on the way, and we'll do our best to be there for you, to be good partners with you. And I know I'm speaking for the Vice President, the Attorney General, and Lee Brown in saying we'll stay after this until the job is done.

[At this point, the President introduced Mayor Richard Riordan of Los Angeles, CA, Mayor James Griffin of Buffalo, NY, Mayor Paul Tauer of Aurora, CO, Mayor Sharpe James of Newark, NJ, Mayor Nelson Wolff of San Antonio, TX, and Mayor Gary Loster of Saginaw, MI, and each made brief remarks.]

The President. Thank you very much, Mayor.

I want to ask the Attorney General now to say a word, because the Justice Department, as you know, managed the process by which your cities were selected. I think they did a very good job, and so I'd like to call on her and let her say a few words.

Attorney General Reno. Mayors, I just want to thank you. Your applications were so impressive. They indicate just what can be done with community policing, how it can both prevent crime and identify the real bad guys who need to be put away. And this is the first round; there are more to come. And we look forward to working with you in a real, true partnership.

Merry Christmas.

The President. I'm going to let Lee Brown say a word to you now. You know, he started a community policing program in New York City. And I don't know if you saw it, but last week there was a wonderful cover story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about a police officer named Kevin Jett who works eight square blocks in one of the toughest neighborhoods in New York. And the story pointed out that he not only arrests criminals but he also prevents a lot of crimes from occurring in the first place. And I think that's the emphasis we ought to have here. This is not simply a question of catching people who break the law in a violent fashion; it's preventing crime.

So I want Lee to say a word.

Mr. Brown. Let me congratulate the mayors and certainly the police chiefs for being selected. I've experienced community policing in Houston and New York; New York, for example, after one year we saw crime go down in every major category for the first time in 36 years. I see it as not only a better but a smarter and certainly more cost-effective way of using police resources.

So congratulations to all of you, and Merry Christmas.

The President. In closing, let me say, I know that from Los Angeles to Michigan, we've Members of Congress who are actually there today, as well as in Buffalo and perhaps in some other places. And I really thank all of you for your support. Somebody told me that Mayor Riordan had the whole southern California delegation there, and if he does, I bet he's talking about more than law enforcement. I hear all of the movement in the background. I wish you all a happy holiday, and I thank you. You know, when you're taking these kind of affirmative actions, the President can't do it alone. We've got to have the support of Congress. And I really appreciate their presence there.

And thank you all so much. And congratulations to you and to the 68 other cities and towns who are in the vanguard of this move to bring community policing to our entire Nation.

Thank you very much.

Anticrime Legislation

Q. Do you think you're going to get that bill through?

The President. Oh, I do, yes.

Q. The atmosphere has changed, hasn't it?

The President. It has changed. You know, there may be some differences between us and the House on the amount of the bill or exactly how it should be spent, but I think there is now a clear bipartisan commitment in both Houses for the 100,000 police officers on the street, for the drug courts, and for some of the other innovations. And so we're very, very hopeful that we can do it.

I think having the mayors, again, out there in small towns as well as the big cities, the Democrats and the Republicans marching arm in arm, it's changed the dynamic of this issue in America in a way that I think will be very good in helping us to make our people safer.

Q. Do you think Congress is getting the message at home while they're at home?

The President. Big time. That's our sense, that they're really hearing from the people that they just have to have more security on the streets, in their schools and communities.

The Economy

Q. Mr. President, are you taking too much credit for the growth of the economy? There have been stories suggesting that it may not be all your doing.

The President. Well, I saw those stories. I got tickled this morning. I took a poll around the staff. We just had a 2-hour meeting on the budget, and I said, if the economy were bad who do you think would be blamed? [Laughter]

I'm not so concerned about who gets the credit really. The American people get the credit, if they go back to work, if they're becoming more competitive, if they're investing their money.

I do know this: Even going back after the election, from the time we announced our deficit reduction plan to the time it was presented, to the time it was enacted, to the present day, the steady, disciplined drop in interest rates has played a major, major role in helping millions of people to refinance their homes and businesses—last year we had a 19-year low in delinquencies in home mortgages—and getting all this investment for new jobs.

So I believe our economic policies are stabilizing this country and contributing to this recovery. I think a lot of Americans have been working for years and years and years to be competitive in the global economy, and I think that is to their credit. I mean, we have a private sector economy. No person in public life can take credit for it. But if we hadn't done what we have done on the economic plan to drive interest rates down and to spur reinvestment, I don't think we'd be where we are on the economy.

Q. But every day we read about thousands being laid off.

The President. Well, it's still a terrible problem. That's why I always say we've got a lot more to do.

The problem that all rich countries are facing now is that productivity, which has always been a good thing in the economy—that is, fewer people produce more goods and services increases their ability to earn more income—that's a problem unless you can sell all the goods and services you're producing. If you don't, it keeps unemployment higher than it should be, and it depresses wages.

So that will be our challenge next year. That's why I wanted to get NAFTA this year; that's why I wanted to get that GATT trade agreement this year; that's why I wanted to try to start a new relationship with Japan and the Far East this year, so we would have more customers for our goods and services, so we can grow this economy.

Q. Are you going to have the flexibility to deal with the job training issues and retraining, given the budget situation?

The President. Well, I've already spent 2 hours on that today, and I expect I'll spend a couple more hours on it. I certainly——

Q. Can you wrap it up now the budget's over?

The President. Well, we're not done yet, but we worked hard on that today. We're going to keep working. We have a few more days. But the retraining issue is important because there have been a lot of news stories lately—many of you perhaps have run them—showing that people that either have high skill levels or are capable of getting them in a hurry have much shorter periods of unemployment and are much more likely to get good-paying jobs.

We still don't have the kind of retraining system we need. So that's going to be a big part of next year's initiative.


Q. Prime Minister Malval is criticizing President Aristide openly for being an obstacle to some sort of reconciliation. Are you on board with Prime Minister Malval or President Aristide? Where are you trying to throw your support?

The President. I wouldn't say it's an either-or thing. Let me say, we have been working with this Friends of Haiti group, with our friends in Canada and France and Venezuela, to try to come up with a new approach that would restore democracy, would create the conditions where President Aristide could return, and would meet the fundamental objective we tried to meet in the Governors Island accord: to guarantee the security and the human rights and safety of all the parties in the previous disputes.

So we're going to take another run at it and see if we can do something on it. And it's going to require some flexibility on all sides. It just is. And we'll just have to see if we can get there. We're going to try, hard.

Q. Thank you.

The President. Thank you all very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. The exchange portion of this item could not be verified because the tape was incomplete.

William J. Clinton, Teleconference Remarks on Community Policing Grants and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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