Women in Law Enforcement Conference

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
Women in Law Enforcement Event

Washington, DC
July 8, 1998

Thank you very much. I am delighted to be here and see such a big turnout from all of you for this important conference. I was very honored to be asked to come and speak to you and I want to thank the Secret Service and all of you for giving me such a warm welcome.

This conference and the twenty years of progress it celebrates, is something that you all should be very proud of. I particularly want to thank those of you who helped to plan it and to share it; Cheryl Tyler, Monica Blodgett, K.C. Crowley, Pat Corry and Donna Stella. All of you have done a terrific job. I think I now really understand the meaning of power lunch as I look out and see all of you gathered here today.

I also want to thank Assistant Secretary of the Treasury James Johnson, Deputy Attorney General Eileen Mayer; and Deputy Assistant Secretary Elisabeth Bresee and all the rest of you who had anything to do with pulling this conference together. But more importantly for supporting women in federal law enforcement throughout the country and over the past years.

I have to say a special word of appreciation to the United States Secret Service; Director Merletti and Brian Stafford and others who have been responsible for the protective division and therefore are very much a part of our daily lives, have done a superb job day in and day out, for which we are very grateful on a personal level.

And I am very proud to have so many women involved in PPD and to have them on the front lines with the President or with me or looking after my daughter. There are a number of women here who have served on my detail. And I have to say that my detail is the best detail. Only the best get asked to serve and save. So I consider these women among the best in law enforcement in our country.

So I want to start by mentioning both the former and present members of my detail who are here, starting with K.C. Crowley, who actually started with me as an Arkansas State Trooper at the Governor's Mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas, four years ago that neither she or I would like to remember. So Casey has been responsible for -- obligated for -- looking after the Clinton family for a very long time. She started when she was in about sixth grade. So, she's kind of grown up in the business.

So I want to thank her and Cheryl Tyler and Pam Flynn and Gene Mitchell and Rachel Clay and Denell Emmitt and Cathy Hickman and Jane Murphy, all of whom are here. And I know that Jane Nolan, who is currently on my detail is here as well. Those are the only names that I have been given, so if I have missed anyone it is only because I cannot see you out there.

But over the past several years, one of my greatest privileges has been getting to know a lot of men and women who serve our country in various roles and capacities. Certainly those in the Secret Service we are closer to. We see them on a more regular basis. But I am very well aware if I travel around the country, of the work that many of you do and the various services that you are part of.

I wanted to say a word about a loss yesterday that probably many of you have heard about or know about first-hand. And that is the deaths of Ricardo Salinas and Rachel Rodrigues, two of our border patrol officers. Susan Rodrigues is the first woman to die in the line of duty in the border patrol. She was following in her father's footsteps who had been a border patrol chief. She served for six years. This Saturday would have been her twenty-ninth birthday. And I think that all of us want to be sure to send our thoughts and prayers to her family, Mr. Salinas' family and the entire border patrol family now.

But the loss of Mr. Salinas and Ms. Rodrigues reminds us that the work you do carries risks with it. You have to be well prepared, you have to be well trained and those of you who are willing to take up this line of work are also going to accept the risks that go with it and we are very grateful to you. Because each of you is making extraordinary sacrifices to safeguard our nation's freedom.

We celebrated last Saturday on our fourth of July, two hundred and twenty-two years of freedom. And you are on the front lines of making sure we have another two hundred and twenty two. Just think of what you do every single day: stopping drugs and fraud, confiscating guns before they end up in the hands of gang members or children, protecting our national parks, making our national agencies stronger, making our communities safer. So, I can't think of a better year or a better time for us all to pay tribute to you and for you to celebrate your twentieth anniversary, because we have a lot to be grateful for in our country.

And sometimes I think we take our blessings for granted. I feel that way every time I travel abroad. And you know that the President and I just came back from our trip to China. I wish I could take every American with me when we are privileged to travel on behalf of the United States because I would like every American to have re-affirmed as the President and I do every time we leave our shores, how valuable what we have as Americans happens to be.

It is easy to be complacent. It is easy to take it for granted. It is easy to wake up every day assuming that we will be free, to say what we want, go where we want, vote for whom we want. All of those freedoms that were fought for and won over the years and are still not enjoyed by literally billions of people around our globe.

So as we stop to celebrate your anniversary, I hope we also take a minute to be grateful for what it is you do by safeguarding our liberties and insuring the blessings that too many of us don't thank each other for day in and day out. I think it is also significant that as women you have been given opportunities which have never been available to any other generation of women in the history of the world and are still not available to most women throughout the world.

It is remarkable to think of women in the Secret Service, women in the border patrol, women doing what you do every single day to help safeguard our liberties. For you each to have the choice to go into law enforcement is not something that you could have chosen just a few years ago. You might have been given a desk job if you were lucky, but one without the administrative responsibility many of you hold down right now. And you certainly wouldn't have been given a field job or the responsibility that many of you have earned because of your professional performance.

You know, 150 years ago group of women and some men gathered to issue what they called a "Declaration of Sentiments." Taking their cues from the Declaration of Independence, they drafted this Declaration of Sentiments around one simple idea: that woman is man's equal and that women should have the same rights and responsibilities and opportunities that men are entitled to.

Now you can imagine that 150 years ago, these women were considered fanatics and radicals and were called women who wanted to be called women instead of women and were often attacked personally. But they stood for something which was very important, which is another one of the blessings which we too often take for granted in the United States.

Because as I travel around the world, I see many women gaining more rights and responsibilities, but there isn't any place like our country for women to do what they think is right for them, to choose a profession, to stake their claim on whatever they believe is right for them in a professional sense.

Now I believe that part of what you are doing here is fulfilling the works and ideals and hopes of many women and men who came before us. Those women 150 years ago in Seneca Falls who called for women's equal participation in the various trades, professions and commerce, could not even imagine that there are words that would encompass women doing the jobs that you are doing.

But that is how we have all worked generation after generation to open doors that can never be closed again. Because many of you are pioneers. There are many of you who are the first ones doing some of the jobs that are available to women now that were not available just a few generations ago, even a few decades ago.

I am sure that when I think about it, the woman who became the first woman ATF agent in 1972, Joanne Kocher -- I think Joanne is here today -- and I don't think that Joanne will ever forget her first stakeout because I am told that she, like a lot of us, who have the opportunities to do the job that we want to do, doesn't think so much about breaking barriers as she does about getting the job done. That is really what we came to do.

I can recall being a lawyer and walking into a courtroom and they had never seen a woman lawyer before and I felt like I was part of a zoo exhibit and I was just there to do my job. Well, I imagine that Joanne felt the same way after she finished that stakeout and her supervisor complimented her by saying, "Well, you didn't faint."

Well, she didn't faint and she went on to do a lot of other important jobs. And because she did, because many of you did, more barriers came tumbling down -- barriers of testing, training and even equipment.

You know there were a lot of agencies in law enforcement that used to think that somehow a woman in law enforcement should wear skirts and heels and carrying a hand bag. Now personally, I don't want a woman on my detail who is wearing a skirt, high heels and is carrying a hand bag. But those are the kinds of things that took a long time to change, as people became more adjusted to the idea of the work that had to be done and the fact that it could be done by a man or a woman was secondary to the job. And I think that is what you have represented to all of us.

The numbers are changing. Today, women comprise 14% of federal law enforcement officers with arrest and fire arm authority. In 1995, women made up 22% of the new agents hired. So we made real progress but we still have a long way to go. For 20 years, WIFLE has been leading the way as women here and throughout the nation in federal law enforcement have worked tirelessly and courageously to demonstrate why they belong on the front lines.

There are many women I could mention in addition to Joanne. I want to mention the courage of Special Agent Helen Sherry, who will receive the Julie Y. Cross Memorial Award tomorrow. For more than two years, Helen Sherry served as an undercover agent, running a ship repair business and another business set up to launder money. She lived for the entire investigation in the same building as the targets of her investigation. She put her personal life on hold and her actual life on the line to make this operation work. She is a deserving recipient of the memorial award she will receive tomorrow.

Now I know despite all the progress, there are still some who don't think that women belong in law enforcement, especially not with arrest and fire arm authority. And I know that some of you are sometimes still subjected to a feeling that some of your colleagues don't particularly want you around, or they don't take you seriously. But your perseverance and your willingness to keep doing the job you were hired to do is the best answer to that -- the best demonstration that you do belong where you are and you do have a contribution to make.

And we do have some good models of women who have broken ground in our federal government. I am especially proud of the appointments my husband has made in the last term and a half. Janet Reno is the first woman ever to serve as our nation's chief law enforcement officer; Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, Director of the Bureau of Prisons; Doris Meissner, Director of the Immigration Naturalization Service; and Rosa Melendez, the first woman of color to become a U.S. Marshal.

But I hope we work for a day when such appointments are not even noteworthy, where we don't even stand up and talk about it because it is just a matter of course. Where the highest levels of law enforcement in our country is no longer a matter of celebration when a woman works her way into that position, but a given that she has earned it, she deserves it and she is where she should be. Where parity among the ranks of officers is no longer a dream but a reality and where we get to the point that the work that you do and the way you do it and who is doing it is seen as part of a seamless web of what we all have to support in order to support our law enforcement system.

I don't think that you are the best women for the job, I think you are the best people for the job. And I want more Americans to appreciate that and support you in what you are doing. We also have to make sure that women in law enforcement, just like women throughout the world of work, are supported in the jobs they do.

There are really tough choices in any profession, but particularly in one with long hours and high stress which many of you hold; between having a family and being able to do your work. Being able to make that commitment to being a wife and mother and make that commitment to being a first rate law enforcement officer. And it still is hard for women to make that balancing act work. And I hope that the long hours and the shift work and the incredible tension that exists about keeping a job like yours and having a family, we are going to do able to do a better job of working out in the years to come.

There haven't been enough women that we would really have a critical mass that would force a lot of our systems to take account of these challenges and this balancing act that many of us who have been in the world of work and have had families have had to endure, but I think that we are making progress and we have to do all we can individually and through organization such as this to make these issues part of our concern when we think about the world of work and what we all have to face.

So I hope that the issues like child care that Director Merletti mentioned will not be considered women's issues, but will be considered human issues -- issues all of us, men and women should be concerned about, because what happens to our children should be a concern not only of mothers and fathers, but of American citizens.

So I hope the work that the President has done and his policies to improve child care for example, will really take root and grow. In March, the President took steps to improve federally sponsored child care, which I know is a concern of many of you. He asked every federal agency to make sure that their child care centers were of the highest possible quality, that background checks are done on the people who care for your children and that all federal workers are given full information on the child care benefits and options that are available to them.

The President has also asked Congress to pass a historic $20 billion child care initiative, the largest single investment we have ever asked of our nation, so that we can improve the quality and safety of all child care and make it affordable and safe for all families.

We also want to improve early learning because we know that children learn more than we ever imagined in the first years of life. And we hope that would be a way to support those of you who are in the world of work that give you more peace of mind about what is happening to your children while you are protecting the American public.

So we have to also be sure that you get the tools you need to to do the job that you are asked to to do. I think it is very significant that we have seen some real progress in our fight against crime in the last five and a half years. And part of that is because the president came to office determined to give law enforcement more real tools -- not rhetoric -- but real tools that could be used in performing your services.

When the Crime Bill was enacted in 1994, the President said he wanted to put 100,000 more police officers on the streets and in our communities. There have already been 76,000 placed, ahead of time and under budget. And what has the result been? Well the result is that we have more police officers available both to prevent and solve crimes; and the net result back is that we have had a decrease in crime for the last five years. It has never happened in the last 35 years that we have had a steady decrease in crime. But it is still too high, you know that better than I to do, but we are trending in the right direction because we pout more resources into the battle.

We also have an effective death penalty statute now for those who murder law enforcement officers and their families. And we are fighting domestic violence which often leads to the death of law enforcement officers with more prosecutors, more battered women shelters, better training for judges, police officers and health professionals and a tool free hotline set up in the Justice Department's Office on Domestic Violence, headed by Bonnie Campbell that women can call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

And we are seeing results there with domestic violence on the decline and perpetrators of domestic violence finally being arrested and charged with the crimes they commit. Law enforcement officers were the president's biggest allies in passing the Brady Bill and working to rid our streets of assault weapons. That was against the opposition of the gun lobby who said it wouldn't make any difference. Well, we know it has made a difference. Because of the Brady Bill we have stopped 300,00 felons, fugitives and stalkers from buying guns and having access to fire arms.

So crime is down, juvenile crime is down, the murder rate in this city alone has declined almost 25%. But clearly, as I say, there is still a lot of work to to do, that you know first hand. Just think of names like Jonesboro or Peducah; Springfield or Richmond; places where we see children take up guns, places that have become household names, places that have shared similar tragedies that have affected all of us throughout our countries.

So as adults, we have to to do more to make sure that our children don't become ugly statistics either as victims or perpetrators of violent crimes. The President has asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Education, Dick Riley, to report back, before school begins this year, on ways that we can to do more to prevent the kind of senseless tragedies that we have seen throughout our country in the last months. Any ideas you have from your experience I hope you will pass on so that we can take advantage of them. Because clearly we have to to do a ll that we can to make sure that no child who has access to a gun picks it up and uses it violently and no school has a better idea of how to prevent this from happening.

I visit a lot of schools, I visit a lot of programs for young people and I see what we need to to do so clearly and I think that you all see it as well. That we have to be more involved with our young people, we have to help parents be better parents. That is where crime prevention really starts. Teaching kids the difference between right and wrong, giving them values to live by, giving them mentoring and support, the love, attention and discipline that every child needs to grown up and be productive and law abiding.

So if we teach our children the lessons that guns won't earn you respect and violence won't settle an argument but will lead to more and more trouble. Then we have even more work to to do because we know we have a lot of children who aren't getting that lesson at home and we have to to do more to interact with them.

I am particularly pleased that the Secret Service adopted a school in Washington, the Kramer Junior High School, where Secret Service agents have gone to work with the kids, to take kids and take them out of their neighborhoods, show them a different way of life, give them different opportunities and perspectives. That may be just as important as being on the front lines of protecting the President or causing fraudulent credit card users to be captured.

I think that there is a lot to to do for you to set an example because a lot of people look up to you, both young women and young men look up to you in law enforcement because they know that you are willing to lay it on the line. And so you can have a lot of influence. And so you could have a lot of influence in the communities in which you work in trying to help young people in trying to take a different path than the one they might be headed down without your intervention.

It is particularly important as law enforcement officials that you make clear that you understand that we need both tough law enforcement and prevention. There is juvenile Crime Bill currently pending in the Congress that has all kinds of tough provisions about locking kids up, throwing them into adult jails, dropping the age of execution if they commit crimes and all this tough rhetoric and changes in the law.

But one of the tough tasks I had as a young lawyer working for the Children's Defense Fund was to go into communities and seek out people who had worked with violent offenders and work with kids who weren't violent, but maybe had gone joyriding in a car or who had gotten in trouble in some other non-violent way and were thrown into adult jails. And boy they learned a lot about how to be even more brutal and feel even less committed and included in their communities.

And those are lessons that only law enforcement people can teach lay people. Yes, we need to be tough and we need to punish where punishment is deserved and we need to be swift and sure about that. But we also need to give young people particularly something to say yes to. We have to give them alternatives to the streets, we have to help them understand how they can be productive in the future.

On this twentieth anniversary I imagine many of you are thinking about what lies ahead for you in your won futures and what opportunities you will have as you continue to fulfill your professional obligations. I also hope you will think about what you are doing in terms of what it will give to Americans so that they can lead safer lives. They can be part of feeling good about themselves and good about their country. You know when the President was in China he was asked some very tough questions by some young people at Beijing University and I was very glad to see it because I wanted the Chinese people to see that in a true democracy the President is subjected to tough questions and he has to represent his point of view in give and take with citizens. This is something that is totally foreign to their government and their way of life.

And one of the questions was about "Well, how can you come over here to China and tell us how to pursue freedom when you've got the kind of freedom in the United States where thirteen and fifteen year old kids can pick up guns and shoot their classmates at school? We don't want that kind of freedom." The President was very straight forward in saying that we've never said we are a perfect nation. We don't think there is such a thing because we don't believe that human beings can be perfect. But we believe we have struck the right balance between freedom and stability, trying to give people the ability to pursue their own desires and aspirations, but within a stable framework where people can feel secure.

And he told the story of a waiter in a hotel in 1992 in New York. I will never forget this because I was with him. This man was a recent immigrant to our country and he told my husband that his son, -- he had a ten year old son -- was learning about an election in school, and was trying to follow it. It was the first election in which he was going to be able to vote, so he talked to his son about it and he said, "you know I don't know as much as my son does about how America works. And my son told me to vote for you." So, I have often said that if children and mosquitos could vote, my husband would get 95% of the vote in any election. And so my husband said, "thank you very much," and the man didn't let go of his hand. And he said, "But if I vote for you, I have something to ask of you. Will you make my son free?"

And my husband stopped and said, "What to do you mean?" And he said, "Well, right now we live in a neighborhood where my son can't walk to school alone and can't go to the park to play. I don't think that is free. We came to Americas for freedom. Will you make my son free?" And I have heard my husband refer to that conversation one hundred times.

Everything my husband has done: the Crime Bill, emphasis on law enforcement, working closely with law enforcement officials, has been in part a way of answering that man's question. Because are our children safe if they can't walk to school, can't go to the park, can't even feel safe once they are inside of school? We've made so much progress in the last five and a half years. I am so pleased that with your help we have seen a lot of progress in our fight against crime.

We have more to to do, but we are on the right track. And if all of us keep in mind the question of that immigrant waiter and his concern for his ten year old child so that every day when each of us wakes up and thinks, "What am I going to to today?" We have to try and make sure that every child, in no matter how bad a neighborhood in America is free, then I think we can keep going and be as committed as we need to be and really to do all we can to finish the job that so many of you who have helped to make possible to be able to say we are really making progress together.

So I thank you for what you to do individually. I thank the organizations and agencies of which you are a part and you contribute so much to. And I ask you to think about what more each of us can to do to make sure that the goals which brought you into law enforcement in the first place to be part of making sure we live in a safe and free country can be fulfilled.

Thank you all and happy twentieth anniversary.

July 1998

Religious Tolerance, Shanghai Jewish Synagogue

National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 1998 List of America’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places

Women in Law Enforcement Conference

Star Spangled Banner Event

Treasures Tour George Washington’s Headquarters

Treasures Tour Edison National Historic Site

Remarks at Bill Ivey's Swearing-In Ceremony

YWCA Battered Women's Shelter

Treasures Tour at the Mount

Treasures Tour Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Treasures Tour Women’s Rights National Historic Park

Treasures Tour Ganondagan State Historic Site

Treasures Tour Harriet Tubman Home

Treasures Tour Kate Mullany House

U.S./China Cooperation on Medical Research

150th Anniversary of the Women’s Right Convention Seneca Falls

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