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Deputy attorney general opens DOJ conference

Posted: 9:44 AM, Dec 05, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-05 19:17:08-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein spoke Wednesday morning to open the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) National Conference at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City.

PSN is a Department of Justice initiative that brings together local, state and federal law enforcement, prosecutors and community leaders to tackle the issue of crime.

In his opening remarks, Rosenstein took several opportunities to praise the president's commitment to reducing crime, adding "there is no stronger supporter of law enforcement in the United States."

However, before heading back to Washington, D.C., the deputy attorney general, who oversees Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, also offered a tongue-in-cheek comment about his relationship with the commander in chief. 

"You let the president know that his favorite deputy attorney general was here," he said, with laughter following from the crowd.

The speech was part of a multi-day conference during which Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and President Donald Trump will also address attendees. 

Top officials with the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service attended the opening ceremony, where U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison served as the master of ceremonies. 

Both Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker are also attending the conference. 41 Action News asked them about the importance of collaboration with federal agencies. 

"We couldn't work this city to reduce violence the way we do without that cooperation. They bring resources we don't have," Smith said.

A major focus for PSN is community policing, which is also a pillar of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance (NOVA).

"NOVA plays a very key role. It's all about a high level of collaboration between law enforcement agencies and local agencies and community," Peters Baker said.

While national crime rates declined from 2016-2017, Kansas City saw a 17 percent increase in homicides and a 5.6 percent hike in violent crime over the same period. 

Peters Baker said collaborative efforts like NOVA are the solution.

"I think that's the only way. It's the only method, the only path to get us out of the spike we're in," she said. 

The PSN conference will feature sessions on such topics as violence de-escalation, offender reentry, retaliatory violence and faith-based partnerships.