Remarks by Attorney General William P. Barr at the Funeral of Cleveland Police Detective and Operation Legend Officer James Skernivitz

Good Morning. I am honored to be here on behalf of the United States Department of Justice to pay tribute to an American hero, Detective James Skernivitz. And Kristen, thank you for allowing me the privilege of honoring Jim today. On behalf of the department, the FBI, the entire federal law enforcement community, I extend my deepest sympathies to you, your family, Jim’s friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

Jim served with distinction, as we have heard, on the Cleveland police force for over 20 years. And in his final days, he was also a sworn officer of Operation Legend, a critical federal initiative to support state and local law enforcement in combatting violent crime here in Cleveland and in other cities. He died serving his city and the country, and both will be forever grateful. The stated mission of the Cleveland Division of Police is to “serve as guardians of the Cleveland community,” and Jim embodied that mission throughout his life. He was raised in this area, and as the chief just said, when he was asked why he wanted to become a police officer, he said because it gave him a chance to keep the city in which he grew up safe. And like so many in law enforcement, Jim was also a family man. He joined the force a year after he married Kristen and they raised their children together, while he served the city. And as we have heard, he was great at his work. He was the kind of person critical to making a successful department work. And while he never asked for recognition, he earned it, and we have heard of the many awards and distinctions that he garnered.

Two weeks ago I had the honor of visiting the gang impact unit where he worked, Jim served as part of the FBI task force in Operation Legend. As a veteran officer, he did not have to take on that dangerous mission. He could have let someone else do it, especially given the risks to police officers nowadays. But once again he volunteered, and once again he made a difference. I witnessed firsthand the superb work that he and his colleagues were doing to get violent criminals off the streets. It was only a few days after my visit that Jim was killed in the line of duty, making the ultimate sacrifice by laying down his life for the community he served.

Unfortunately, I did not know Jim personally, but in a sense I do know Jim. I know him well because I know the strength of character, the decency, the courage and the commitment, which although too uncommon in society generally, are common virtues in the ranks of America’s police. Jim represents what is great and good about our police. As has been said he was a policeman’s policeman. He epitomized the greatness of our police. And I pray his tragic death may help remind people, those that need reminding, of some of the basic truths, and help stop some of the vilification of the police that is going on these days in some quarters.

These are difficult days for law enforcement around the country. At a time when our officers have never faced greater danger and challenges, there are vocal, powerful forces, segments of society that vilify the police. Acts of resistance and physical violence against the police are not just tolerated, but sometimes glorified. Whatever one’s views are on the issue of the day, I hope people outside this arena pause and reflect on Jim’s sacrifice, and what it represents. Not just the sacrifice of his life, the ultimate sacrifice, but the sacrifice inherent in the vocation of policing. The grueling work, the gnawing stress, the ever present danger of sudden deadly violence, and the burdens and anxieties placed on family life.

I remember as I was growing up during the Vietnam War, some people were so blinded by politics that they vilified our soldiers and even spat on them. Fortunately, people have come to their senses today, and now people go out of their way to thank soldiers for their service, as well they should. You know during the first Gulf War when our troops rolled out of their bases to their embarkation points, there were crowds of people along the highway cheering them on. And when they came back there were ticker tape parades.

But when our police leave the precinct each day, to protect the safety of the community, there are no crowds cheering them and they do not get their ticker tape when they return home safe. And when they deploy, it’s not for a certain period of time, to accomplish a particular objective. Police are on deployment everyday of their service, and our police don’t have a final victory in their fight against crime. No matter how great the achievements on any day, the next day our officers put on the badge and do it all over again.

There is a special kind of courage and commitment to do this job. It’s the courage we saw 19 years ago on September 11, when officers responded to the attack on the World Trade Center, and Jim had that courage. Our officers don’t ask for thanks, but it’s time that the American people give our police the recognition and appreciation they are due, and thank them for the sacrifices they and their families make. That would be a great legacy, if we could bring some good out of the evil of Jim’s death and move closer to the day where the public recognizes the commitment and service and sacrifice of their guardians. 

Jim, thank you for your sacrifice. Kristen, Bayleigh, Peyton and Matthew, thank you for your sacrifice. And thank all of you in blue in this arena and outside this arena for your service. God bless you all, and God bless the United States. Thank you.

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  • United States Antitrust Agencies Co-Host the 19th Annual International Competition Network Conference
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are co-hosting the International Competition Network’s (ICN) 19th annual conference, which opens today and runs through Thursday, September 17, 2020.  Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim and FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons are leading the U.S. agencies’ participation in the ICN’s first virtual conference.  Assistant Attorney General Delrahim and Chairman Simons will deliver opening remarks and speak on the conference’s showcase program addressing the challenges of enforcement in the digital economy.
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  • Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Mongolia’s President Battulga
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Justice Department Issues Favorable Business Review Letter to Institute of International Finance for Sovereign Debt Information Sharing Principles
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division announced today that it has completed its review of the proposal by the Institute of International Finance (IIF) to promulgate voluntary guidelines, called the Principles for Debt Transparency (Principles), allowing for public disclosure of information regarding the issuance of sovereign debt. Based on the representations in IIF’s letter request, including its description of certain safeguards, the department has concluded that the principles are unlikely to harm competition. Therefore, the department does not presently intend to challenge IIF’s proposed principles.
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  • Justice Department Finds Yale Illegally Discriminates Against Asians and Whites in Undergraduate Admissions in Violation of Federal Civil-Rights Laws
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today notified Yale University of its findings that Yale illegally discriminates against Asian American and white applicants in its undergraduate admissions process in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The findings are the result of a two-year investigation in response to a complaint by Asian American groups concerning Yale’s conduct.   
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  • Riverside, California Man Who Admitted Planning Mass Casualty Attacks and Purchasing Firearms Later Used in 2015 Terrorist Attack in San Bernardino Ordered to Serve 20-Year Federal Prison Sentence
    In Crime News
    A Riverside man was sentenced today to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to commit terrorist attacks in the Inland Empire and for providing assault rifles later used in the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack that killed 14 people.
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  • Former Supervisory Corrections Officer Sentenced for Repeatedly Tasing Restrained Detainee
    In Crime News
    Former supervisory corrections officer Mark Bryant, 42, was sentenced today to 5 years in prison for repeatedly tasing a restrained pretrial detainee inside the Cheatham County Jail in Tennessee. In January 2020, a jury in the Middle District of Tennessee convicted Bryant of two counts of violating Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 242, for using excessive force while acting under color of law. 
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  • Mississippi Tax Preparer Sentenced to Prison for False IRS Returns
    In Crime News
    A Moss Point, Mississippi, resident was sentenced to 22 months in prison for preparing false tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst for the Southern District of Mississippi.
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  • Military Child Care: Off-Base Financial Assistance and Wait Lists for On-Base Care
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) has reviewed the financial assistance it provides for off-base child care services and taken steps to standardize this assistance across the military services. Specifically, in August 2018, representatives of each service agreed to work toward a goal of standardizing the only element of the fee assistance calculation that varies among the services—the maximum provider rate. DOD officials said that they assess progress toward this goal each year, but have not set a definite deadline for full standardization. With respect to assistance for off-base child care at high-cost duty stations, DOD's 2020 report on its child care programs states that the Air Force, Marines, and Navy review high-cost locations annually, and the services may approve increased provider rate caps for specific high-cost locations. In addition, it states that the services may grant waivers allowing increased fee assistance for individual families experiencing hardship. DOD has also assessed factors that contribute to wait lists for on-base child care. According to DOD’s report, DOD found that wait lists are the result of a myriad of factors, including staff shortages and facility conditions that vary across service locations. Officials said DOD has worked for several years to analyze and address wait lists. In 2017, DOD launched a web portal that consolidates child care data across the services and in August 2019, DOD officials began monthly monitoring of wait list data from this portal. These data allowed DOD to identify four geographic regions and six additional locations that account for the majority of wait lists, and focus their efforts on addressing the issues affecting these regions and locations, according to the report. DOD officials said that any requests for additional resources to help address wait lists must be handled through the individual services’ budgeting processes. DOD offers child care in a variety of on- and off-base settings for children of military families. In fiscal year 2020 these child care programs received nearly $1.2 billion in federal funds; in addition, parents pay a portion of the costs. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 required DOD to report on elements of its financial assistance to off-base child care providers and wait lists for on-base child care, and included a provision for GAO to review DOD's report. This report describes DOD's assessment of (1) financial assistance provided to off-base child care providers, and (2) its efforts to reduce wait lists for child care at military bases. GAO reviewed DOD's report on this assessment, interviewed DOD officials, and reviewed relevant federal law. For more information, contact Kathryn A. Larin at (202) 512-7215 or larink@gao.gov.
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  • North Carolina Restaurant Owner and Son Charged with COVID-Relief Fraud
    In Crime News
    Two individuals were charged in an indictment that was unsealed today for their alleged participation in a scheme to obtain, through multiple fraudulent loan applications, more than $1.7 million in COVID-19 relief guaranteed by the Small Business Administration through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
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  • Two Individuals Charged with Bribery Related to Iraq Contracts
    In Crime News
    Two individuals have been charged with bribery offenses in connection with Department of Defense contracts as part of the Fraud Section’s ongoing efforts to combat corruption and fraud in contracting on U.S. military installations overseas.
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  • The U.S. Reaches $1.5 Billion Settlement with Daimler AG Over Emissions Cheating in Mercedes-Benz Diesel Vehicles
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced today a proposed settlement with German automaker Daimler AG and its American subsidiary Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC (collectively, “Daimler”) resolving alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and California law associated with emissions cheating. 
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