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U.S., law officials remain ‘vigilant’

As a community and a nation, we come together in times of crisis. Ironically, when it comes to COVID-19, our unification is best done in a metaphorical rather than literal sense.

In that spirit of unity, I ask that everyone in the community reflect on the brave men and women of law enforcement and those who work throughout the criminal justice system, who despite these difficult times, come together each day on a shared mission to serve, protect, and uphold the rule of law.

Every individual working in law enforcement, whether as a law enforcement officer or prosecutor, began their career with an oath. Because that oath engendered a promise, it also carried with it a moral obligation. In the case of those working in the criminal justice system, that obligation includes a promise to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to uphold our Nation’s laws. But their obligation-our obligation-does not end there. As Americans-no matter our occupation, no matter who we are, and not matter what we do-each of us are part of what our Founding Father’s characterized as the “great experiment” in self-governance.

Yet, I fear that too many of us have come to view self-governance as a descriptor of how we go about choosing our leaders more than it is a characterization for how we ought to go about living our lives.

Indeed, our very identity, as a Nation and as citizens, is predicated upon our ability to engage in self-governance. That is, the responsibility and obligation that each of us have to control and govern our own behavior-to live morally.

In times such as this — when we are tested — we must reaffirm our commitment to engage in self-governance and to unify in order to uphold those aspirational values which lie at the heart of our identity as Americans. As Americans, our identity depends not on where we came from, who we are, or what we have, but instead it is all about what we honor and uphold. Notions such as equality, justice, fairness — and perhaps the greatest legal precept ever — the Golden Rule — serve as the signposts on our collective journey toward unification and continued survival. We call it the American way, and it is our commitment to that American way that has guided us through troubled and uncharted waters in the past and it will carry us through these difficult times as well.

Those of us working in the criminal justice system at all levels remain committed to ensuring that the justice system will continue to function during this national crisis. The tremendous men and women who serve in my office will follow the guidance of the Attorney General, which makes it clear that the critical mission of the Department of Justice will continue. We will work closely with our partners in law enforcement and with the judiciary in order to ensure that health of those public servants who selflessly do their best each day to live up to their oaths of office.

Together, we will continue to hold accountable those who fail to live up to their moral obligation as Americans.

Finally, my office and the entire Department of Justice will remain particularly vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis. There have been reports of individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud, reports of phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and reports of malware being inserted onto mobile apps designed to track the spread of the virus.

The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic. Such conduct will not be tolerated.

Together, we will pull through this crisis and reaffirm to the world that, nearly 250 years after the “great experiment” in self-governance, our people, our communities, and our Nation remain resilient, vital, and healthy.

James P. Kennedy Jr. is United States attorney for the Western District of New York.

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