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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

145 N Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20530

January 2020 | Volume 14 | Issue 1

American law enforcement had a challenging year in 2020, and I am honored to have had the privilege to lead the COPS Office through this time. As we embark on a new year and the COPS Office comes under new leadership, I am confident the progress will continue and the COPS Office will remain an effective broker of resources and federal policy development for our profession. The list of our accomplishments in the past four years is long, and there are several areas of focus that I strongly believe will be of ongoing benefit to the field.

The COPS Office led the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order 13896, which created the commission, said that its goal was “to study issues related to law enforcement and the administration of justice and to make recommendations to the President, on actions that can be taken to prevent, reduce, and control crime, increase respect for the law, and assist victims.” I invite you to review the commission’s final report.

Rural law enforcement agencies represent a significant majority of the nation’s law enforcement, both in terms of number and geographical coverage. Working with U.S. Attorneys, the COPS Office held 12 listening sessions across the country in the past two years. What we learned from our colleagues from small and rural departments has been recorded in Conversations with Rural Law Enforcement Leaders and was used to improve the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) grant-making processes and to ensure that the COPS Office is more responsive to the needs of rural agencies.

In 2018, the COPS Office established a School Safety Working Group to identify the most essential actions that school districts and law enforcement agencies can take to prevent mass casualty attacks—and, when prevention is not enough, to respond rapidly and effectively to end the threat as quickly as possible. The resulting report, Ten Essential Actions to Improve School Safety, was presented to the Attorney General in August 2020 offering a multidisciplinary approach that can be taken to ensure school communities’ mental and emotional security as well as their physical safety.

Under this Administration, Operation Legend was implemented across all federal law enforcement agencies in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials. The focus of this initiative is to fight the sudden surge of violent crime in American cities. In May 2020, the COPS Office provided $51 million to support Operation Legend, and those funds will make it possible to hire 214 sworn officers to serve on state and local task forces. The recipients of the funding are deploying existing veteran officers to task force duties and will use the COPS Office funding to hire new recruits to backfill those positions.

The COPS Office Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) program and the COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program (CAMP) provide grants directly to state-level law enforcement agencies with multijurisdictional reach to combat the manufacture and distribution of illicit drugs. The success of the Wisconsin Department of Justice task force exemplifies the impact of these resources. In 2016, they used CAMP funding to increase criminal investigations throughout the state. Since the implementation of their award, there has been

  • a 365% increase in meth cases across the state;
  • a 666% increase in methamphetamine seized;
  • a 529% increase in the number of meth-related arrests;
  • an increase of 293% in the initiation of cases involving drug-endangered children.

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) have rapidly changed the state of play in the public safety theater. The COPS Office recognized both the emerging threats and opportunities of UAS and in February 2019 hosted a forum with practitioners, law enforcement stakeholder groups, federal partners, and international peers. The findings from that forum were compiled into Drones: A Report on the Use of Drones by Public Safety Agencies—and a Wake-Up Call about the Threat of Malicious Drone Attacks. Then, in January 2020, the COPS Office convened a working group on UAS. The primary purpose of this working group is to identify the most pressing needs pertaining to UAS deployment and to produce guidance for our peers in the field. The resulting guide—Roadmap to Implementing an Effective Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program—contains resources identified by working group members as essential to starting a drones program as well as their own invaluable lessons learned. Released in December 2020, it is the first of a series of deliverables stemming from the working group.

Perhaps one of the most significant improvements in the COPS Office has been the focus on developing staff and adding needed technological support. Our greatest resource is our staff. Over the last four years we have experienced a staff reduction of nearly 23%. We have put together a great team to address staff reductions by hiring critical positions and making critical changes in the leadership of the COPS Office, changes that not only benefit the staff, but also the field. These improvements have required extraordinary efforts under very stressful and trying times, while at the same time continuing the business of the COPS Office, increasing outreach efforts, and playing major roles in President’s Commission, implementation of the President’s Executive Order on use of force, as well as Operation Legend. The COPS leadership team and staff have made incredible sacrifices to carry out our mission, which I owe a great deal of gratitude and appreciation for such incredible efforts.

These are just a few areas in which the COPS Office has spurred advances during the past four years. I am equally pleased to have positioned the COPS Office to be more responsive to the field by increasing our staffing levels; expanding the COPS Office’s focus on officer mental health and wellness; and increasing the number of statewide Blue Alert networks to 37. I am also proud to have worked side-by- side with the COPS Office and other DOJ officials to advance community policing and make your jobs easier.

Serving as the Director of the COPS Office, the Chair of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement, and working with executives throughout the U.S. Department of Justice and the field has been among the highlights of my career. When I first entered the academy more than 50 years ago, I could never have imagined where the journey would lead. I simply knew that I wanted to contribute and be an asset to the profession. I like to think that I have accomplished both, in no small part, because of the support I have received from colleagues through the years. Thank you for your commitment, and thank you for answering the call to serve.


Phil Keith
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The COPS Office staff wishes to thank all law enforcement and first responders for their dedicated service. We want to particularly thank Director Phil Keith for his leadership and tireless efforts to support state, tribal, and local law enforcement, and the staff of the COPS Office.

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