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Commissioner Kerlikowske’s Remarks at the National Law Enforcement Exploring Conference

Release Date: 
July 11, 2016

Remarks as prepared for July 11, 2016

Thank you, Cynthia [National Youth Representative Cynthia Garcia]. Cynthia has done a terrific job at CBP – specifically with our Office of Field Operations – and she has done an excellent job representing you as your National Youth Representative.  I am so proud of the energy and enthusiasm she has brought to the organization.

The events in Dallas are truly saddening and felt all across the country.The moving tribute tonight along with countless others help us grieve with and for the friends and family of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Law Enforcement is not an easy calling, but it is a high calling, and it is one to be proud of. I have dedicated my entire career to public service in law enforcement, and can tell you that there is no greater career path to really make a difference.

I know this, and your law enforcement advisors know this. But we count on you, the next generation of law enforcement, to continue to protect and serve.

I am so pleased to be able to join you all here in Flagstaff and it’s an honor to serve as Chairman of the National Law Enforcement Exploring Committee. I’d like to thank former Secretary Bob Gates for his video message.  I know he wishes he could be here in person with us.

I also want to thank Colonel Frank Milstead, Director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and his team for their role in supporting this great conference in Arizona. And I want to highlight the strong relationship that my agency has with his agency.

I currently serve as Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, our nation’s largest law enforcement agency. CBP has strong ties to Arizona, and we work tirelessly together in all kinds of ways to protect our border. As a border state, Arizona commands our vigilance and our attention 24/7.

Let me list some examples, just from the month of June:

  • Nogales port of entry: $3,000 worth of meth hidden in tamales;
  • Also at the Nogales POE: 264 lbs. of marijuana disguised as brick paving stones;
  • 70 lbs. of cocaine – worth nearly $800,000 – seized by Border Patrol agents in a traffic stop; and
  • Reconnaissance flights near Arizona City led to the discovery and raids of two suspected drug cartel scout campsites; and
  • A joint investigation between Border Patrol and Pinal County Sheriffs led to the arrests of several lookouts associated with drug and human smuggling activity.

That’s a brief snapshot of some recent successes just in Arizona – and we couldn’t do it without our close partnerships with state and local law enforcement.

As the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, CBP joined Law Enforcement Exploring in 1983.  Several of our senior leaders started as Explorers – ranging from officers and agents all the way up to Port Directors and Chiefs.

And I am proud that CBP is the largest sponsor of Exploring in the country and that our participation in Exploring continues to grow. Our law enforcement mission has many facets, but they all point to CBP’s overarching goal of securing our borders. 

Our mission is really complex, because we have to balance border security with facilitating lawful travel and trade. We rely on our three operational components to fulfill our mission:

  • Field Operations: Our men and women in blue who secure our border at our ports of entry.
  • The Border Patrol: Our men and women in green who secure our borders in between our ports of entry.
  • Air and Marine: Our men and women in tan who patrol our borders from the skies and water.

All of our men and women in uniform know that, in law enforcement, there is really no such thing as a “typical day.” And there is no shortage of opinions about policing.  

I mentioned before that I’ve spent my entire career in law enforcement – starting 40 years ago as a beat cop in St. Petersburg, Florida. Policing has changed a lot in the past four decades – and those changes have been driven by cultural changes, new technologies, and a willingness to learn from our missteps and each other’s best practices.

What hasn’t changed, however, is our profound commitment to the safety and the security of the public we serve.

In fact, the body-worn cameras and vehicle cameras and the cell phone footage, more often than not, show our law enforcement personnel doing the right thing.

And despite the drumbeat of negativity we often hear in the headlines, the public remains confident in their local law enforcement. A poll last year, for example, noted that law enforcement officers ranked fourth highest on a list of 21 occupations for honesty and ethical standards.

Just last month, another poll showed 56 percent of Americans express “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in law enforcement. This clearly demonstrates that the general public largely trusts and supports the work of law enforcement.

It’s imperative that law enforcement organizations – from the smallest rural hamlet to the largest urban center – commit to building trust and mutual respect between police and communities.

And on Wednesday, the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS office, along with the International Association of Chiefs of Police will have leaders here for a special seminar offered to you about policing in today’s environment.

Finally, a word about your own career paths. Remember that your experience as Explorers prepares you for a wide variety of law enforcement careers across the board. I encourage you to explore law enforcement careers at all levels – federal, state, and local. 

But should you choose other career paths, your experience in Exploring will be invaluable.

So, in closing, I want to thank you and all explorers.  You give all of us in law enforcement “bench strength.” By investing in your growth and education, we reap untold rewards as you mature into the kinds of women and men we all can count on.

I also want to thank all Advisors, Associate Advisors, and other leaders and mentors for their involvement in Exploring. Together, your talents, your dedication, and your enthusiasm have never been needed more than they are now in these challenging times.

Explorers are the future leaders of law enforcement. I salute your willingness to step up, get involved, and embark on the path to what my own personal and professional experience has taught me is a very rewarding career of public service.

And before I hand the mic back over, I would like to call the National Director of Law Enforcement Exploring, Bill Taylor, to the stage. For the past 8 years, Bill has been serving as the professional staff advisor to the Exploring Program and has worked closely with the National Law Enforcement Exploring Committee, and its youth leaders.

Bill has done a great job in his role as National Director and has worked to increase support for Exploring Posts across the country. Bill will be taking on new duties in the Learning for Life family where he will continue to support youth-serving programs. 

We wish him well and thank him for his dedication and friendship.  Bill, on behalf of all of us, please accept this as a token of our appreciation for your service.

In addition, I would like to announce the appointment of Kristen Falatko as the new National Director of Law Enforcement Exploring.

Let’s give them both a round of applause. Thank you all.

Last modified: 
February 8, 2017