DIRECTOR PHIL KEITH ANNOUNCES DEPARTURE FROM THE COPS OFFICE
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Director Phil Keith of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) has announced his departure from the Department of Justice, effective January 19, 2021. Director Keith has served as the COPS Office Director since April 16, 2018.
“My law enforcement career began in 1970, and one of the most significant highlights over these 50 years has been leading the COPS Office,” said Director Keith. “When I was the chief of the Knoxville Police Department, I had the privilege to travel to Washington to help shape the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which created the COPS Office. To fast forward 25 years and be the Director of the COPS Office has been a true honor. My focus during my time at the COPS Office has always been on the brave men and women of law enforcement who sacrifice so much for the citizens they serve. This country asks so much of our federal, state, tribal, and local police officers and deputies, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they have the training, resources, and support they need to do their jobs. They never let us down, and my goal has been to ensure that the COPS Office will never, ever let them down.”
Director Keith is a tireless advocate for the needs of state, local and tribal law enforcement. He brought his 50 years of law enforcement experience to the COPS Office along with his “by the field, for the field” approach. Director Keith firmly believes that the best solutions do not come from Washington, but rather from law enforcement throughout the country. His record of accomplishments while leading the COPS Office includes:
Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. Director Keith chaired the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice in 2020. President 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.”
The Commission’s charge was to prepare a final report with a series of recommendations to serve as a blueprint for national action to improve the criminal justice system and provide greater service, better outcomes, and improved public safety for the American people. The Commission delivered its report to the Attorney General in early December, and the final report was published on December 22, 2020. This tremendous endeavor will continue to have a significant impact on the criminal justice system, as jurisdictions across the country work to implement the recommendations and put these practices into action.
Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities. Under the leadership of Director Keith, the COPS Office was charged with implementing President Trump’s Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities – reinforcing once again the significant impact of the COPS Office and its work on the law enforcement profession. The President signed the Executive Order in June 2020, and its far-reaching implications include the establishment of national standards. Its goal is to ensure that law enforcement agencies continue striving to provide transparent, safe, and accountable delivery of services to communities. This delivery will enhance community confidence in law enforcement and facilitate the identification and correction of internal issues before they result in injury to the public or to law enforcement officers. This work will have lasting impacts on the law enforcement profession.
Rural Listening Sessions. Rural law enforcement agencies represent a significant majority of the nation’s law enforcement, both in terms of number and geographical coverage. These agencies face many of the same public safety and crime challenges as their colleagues in larger urban and suburban jurisdictions. At the same time, they face a number of challenges that are unique to rural areas. With job opportunities decreasing and poverty increasing, rural jurisdictions – individually and nationwide – have experienced increases in violent crime rates, as well as human, gun, and drug trafficking. Despite these challenges, in the past rural law enforcement leaders have often been left out of conversations regarding their challenges and how the federal government can help address their needs. In September 2018, in an effort to be more responsive to the needs of rural law enforcement, the COPS Office developed a strategy to facilitate discussions and solicit feedback from rural law enforcement executives throughout the United States. Working with the nation’s U.S. Attorneys, Director Keith and the COPS Office held 12 listening sessions across the country over two years.
Field Engagement Initiative to Improve the Grants Development and Management Process. Through this work, the COPS Office seeks to improve and simplify the grant application and management process, tailor beneficial training and technical assistance, and improve results. This initiative will continue to advance quality control in the several aspects of the grant award and management process. As a leader in the management of federal funding, this is part of the COPS Office’s ongoing effort to maintain open and active communications in order to continually meet the needs of state, local and tribal law enforcement. The COPS Office seeks to minimize the burden placed on stakeholders when seeking and accessing federal resources to advance community policing.
Combatting Methamphetamines, Heroin and other Opioids. The COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force program and the COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program provide grants directly to state-level law enforcement agencies with multijurisdictional reach and interdisciplinary team / task force structures to combat the manufacture and illicit drugs. Under the leadership of Director Keith, the programs have led to tremendous successes for state law enforcement.
Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act (LEMHWA). In December 2020, the COPS Office launched a new community of practice that will leverage the experiences of LEMHWA grantees to improve the understanding of how best to serve the mental health needs of law enforcement. The goal of this initiative is to create a space for awardees to share experiences and gain insight into best practices on the design, development, and implementation of an officer safety and wellness program, including how to overcome challenges. As a community of practice, this working group will offer awardees dynamic access to an ongoing communications network of peers who can provide support in the implementation and sustainment of successful officer wellness programs. The COPS Office will also elevate and amplify the best practices and lessons learned within the community of practice to the broader law enforcement field.
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Working Group. UAS have rapidly changed the state of play in the public safety theater. Inappropriate use and deployment of UAS and their operators present a serious threat to public safety and order. The same technology also offers tremendous opportunities to improve safety outcomes for our communities and for our sworn law enforcement practitioners and other public safety first responders. Director Keith recognized both the emerging threats and opportunities and hosted a forum in 2019 that convened 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.
The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. The only Department of Justice agency with policing in its name, the COPS Office was established in 1994 and has been the cornerstone of the nation’s crime fighting strategy with grants, a variety of knowledge resource products, and training and technical assistance. Through the years, the COPS Office has become the go-to agency for law enforcement agencies across the country and continues to listen to the field and provide the resources that are needed to reduce crime and build trust between law enforcement and the communities served. The COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 134,000 officers.