SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today took the oath of office as Attorney General of California and delivered her inaugural address at Crocker Art Museum.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you Madame Chief Justice, Bishop Blake, Anjali, and to the California Department of Justice Color Guard.
I'm honored to have you participate in today's ceremony.
My fellow Californians –
The great former Governor (and former Attorney General) Pat Brown once offered a salient reminder of the Promise of California and our constant focus on the future. He said: “Nostalgia has never been a way of life for Californians. We have always been pioneers and sons of pioneers, a vigorous, dynamic people who respect tradition, but scorn the status quo. In the spirit of California’s history then, we are here today to bear a lantern for the future, not carry a torch for the past.”
Today more than anything, I first want to express my gratitude. Gratitude to my husband and my entire family for your love and support. Gratitude to the people of California for putting your faith in the work we are doing to bring a smarter, more effective approach to crime prevention. Gratitude for the opportunity I have every day to work alongside some of the most outstanding men and women at the cutting edge of criminal justice.
After I became Attorney General, I’ll never forget the first meeting I attended in Washington, DC of the National Association of Attorneys General – or “NAAG” – someone clearly didn’t think that one through!
And when I was standing in that room, that old adage became so clear: as goes California, so goes the Nation. People around the country look to California. They look to us, to see what change looks like. They look to us, to see what innovation can be. They look to us, because we are unburdened by what has been and instead are inspired by what can be.
And that is the promise of California.
As Attorney General, I see it as a compliment to so many California law enforcement leaders – from our frontline police, to our district attorneys, to our rehabilitation experts, to everyone who is working to change lives – up and down the state.
It is also a tribute to the whole team that is the California Department of Justice. So I ask the present and past DOJ employees who are with us here today to please stand or raise your hands so we can acknowledge you. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the finest public law office in the United States.
These are the people who are the story behind the headlines. These are the people who make personal sacrifices every day to do the work of keeping us safe. They believe in the nobility of public service. And they serve one client...the people.
And they serve knowing real justice isn’t a place where you ever truly arrive. Instead, we must fight for it each and every day. So, let’s look at what they have done! Look at what we have been able to accomplish together!
Remember, not that long ago, this is the team who went toe-to-toe against an army of the highest-paid hired guns the Wall Street banks could put on retainer! And what did we win? More than $20 billion for California homeowners and a better deal for families across the nation!
This is the same team that enacted the California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights – a model for the entire country to follow – which now guarantees basic fairness and transparency for people struggling to stay in their homes. Hard working people trying to hold on to the American Dream.
This team has delivered an additional $2 billion – in the last four years – to California consumers who were victims of fraud and other predatory schemes. Members of this office are the folks doing groundbreaking work, whether it is taking on the multinational corporations or transnational gangs.
And, in the past four years, DOJ special agents have seized from criminal organizations:
We also initiated a consortium of Attorneys General from around the country to coordinate our response to organized crime. We have executed bilateral agreements and are training our counterparts in Mexico and throughout Latin America.
And this has been with a focus on confronting the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprise – human trafficking. And let us call human trafficking what it is. It is a form of slavery that profits from the cruel exploitation of our most vulnerable women and children. Our work has made the point clear: we are not going to stand for human trafficking in our Golden State.
Here in California, we are the birthplace of the technology that is changing the world, and your Department of Justice is a leader in the adoption of technology for law enforcement to fight crime. Together, we cleared the backlog of DNA evidence with state-of-the-art equipment and tools. We launched the innovative Rapid DNA Service Team, which improved and expedited the DNA analysis of rape kits. In fact, we were given the "Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services" by the United States Department of Justice after we eliminated the entire backlog of rape kits in just our first year! And we did it by making it a top priority. Finally, sexual assault victims in California can find the measure of peace that comes with justice, that comes with holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
Our team also created the eCrimes Unit to investigate and prosecute identity theft and crimes committed through the use of technology. This team has and will continue to investigate and prosecute online predators that profit from the extortion, humiliation and degradation of women by posting images without their consent.
And our creation of the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit is protecting the privacy and information of California consumers and businesses in a world that is increasingly plagued by cyber threats. With our SmartJustice initiative, our team built a mobile app for police officers and investigators – that has been called “Google for cops.”
With our Smart on Crime initiative, we are using innovation to protect public safety by reducing recidivism and shutting the revolving prison door with the California Department of Justice’s first ever Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-entry.
We are also using the power of our office to aggressively protect the water we drink and the air we breathe from Shasta to San Diego. Because protecting our environmental resources not only improves public health, it generates good jobs for California by growing the green economy.
And every day, in every way, our staff is fighting for the principle that every Californian and every community is equal under the law. That, of course, is the promise of California. Our team boldly refused to defend Prop 8 and wrote the brief for marriage equality! Our team has been vigilant in defense of a woman’s reproductive rights and meaningful access to health care and contraception.
And this team has helped to lift a lamp for our immigrant communities. For example, we organized California's legal community to fight for the unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. And we boldly said that local law enforcement shall not be forced to serve as de facto immigration officers.
Why? Because immigrant mothers and fathers shouldn’t have to live with that excruciating fear: "What happens to my child if I'm detained and deported without reason?"
And, I’ll tell you something else about the men and women of the California Department of Justice. They know we are either moving forward or slipping back. We are either reaching toward the light or we are falling into the darkness. They know our work is never complete.
Witness the important conversation that is taking place – in our living rooms and on our streets – here in California and around the nation. The conversation about the relationship of trust between law enforcement and communities we are sworn to serve. As law enforcement leaders we must confront this crisis of confidence. The work to build trust with the communities we are sworn to protect never ends. Trust is a reciprocal relationship. We must acknowledge that too many have felt the sting of injustice.
That is why, as a first step, I have directed my Division of Law Enforcement to present to me within 90 days a complete review of our special agent training on implicit bias and use of force. And in the coming months, I will convene and work with our state and local law enforcement partners, community leaders and the youth themselves to develop solutions, increase mutual understanding, and strengthen trust.
As a career prosecutor, I have always known one central truth: the public and law enforcement need each other to keep our communities safe. I know firsthand how the men and women in law enforcement put themselves in danger each and every day. I have been to too many funerals – twenty-nine. I have seen the loss the families and their children suffer.
And, as a society, we must and we will honor their courage and sacrifice as we move forward in this important national dialogue.
And with our leadership, California law enforcement has a unique opportunity to lead the way for the entire nation. As a daughter of Brown v. Board of Education, and the civil rights movement, I know we can make progress. I know it personally. I know it deeply.
I also know that to affect real change, to be Smart on Crime, it’s not just about reacting to the problems at hand; it’s also about looking ahead, creating opportunity and making investments in the future. And I promise you this: in my next term, we're going to double down. I am going to use the power of this office to lift up the next generation of Californians.
That work will start in the coming days with the creation of the Bureau of Children’s Justice.
We are going to expand our campaign to end elementary school truancy so that we can keep our children on track to meet their full potential. The evidence is simply overwhelming: a child who is chronically truant in elementary school is three to four times more likely to drop out of high school and become a perpetrator or a victim of crime. We must keep our promise to California’s children.
It’s time to say that in the State of California it is a crime for a child to go without an education. We also have to confront our state’s tragically flawed foster care system. We simply cannot let down our most vulnerable children today, then lock them up tomorrow and act surprised! At times like these, I can’t help but think of the impact that chronic violence and poverty have on our children.
When we fail to fully invest in the next generation, the message we send them is that some lives are not as valuable as others... some lives are not worth the investment. So today, to the young people of this state, here is my message: each one of you is valuable. Each one of you has a contribution to make. We need you.
To the men and women of the California Department of Justice – and all Californians – I say: the promise of California means the promise of equal opportunity for economic prosperity for all of her residents. And let's remember we are the sons and daughters of immigrants and pioneers. Let's bear the lantern and light the way. Let's remember who we are as Californians: unburdened by tradition and inspired by what can be.
I’m honored to serve a second term as your Attorney General. Thank you all for everything each one of you do for California.