By Chief Joseph C. Carter, Transit Police Department, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Boston, Massachusetts
|Chief Joseph C. Carter|
hroughout its history, the IACP has played an active role in shaping U.S. federal policy that is important to the law enforcement community. As police executives, it has been and continues to be our responsibility to ensure that policy makers hear our input and insight when considering legislation that affects us. Today is no different—we must ensure that our voices are clearly heard on Capitol Hill.
Earlier this year, the IACP Executive Committee approved a legislative agenda for the 110th Congress. This document, which is based upon the resolutions approved by the membership at our annual conference, will guide our legislative efforts over the next year. Armed with this agenda, the IACP Board of Officers held a series of key meetings with administration and congressional officials earlier this spring.
Currently, there are several issues at the forefront of our efforts: reauthorizing the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) programs, renewing the assault weapons ban, enacting the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, securing more radio spectrum for public safety, furthering information and intelligence sharing, and supporting many other programs and policies important to the law enforcement community. I am pleased to report that our efforts are progressing well. Over the past several months, we have made significant progress in securing increased funding for state, tribal, and local law enforcement assistance programs and in advancing other critical priorities of the law enforcement community.
However, the ultimate success of IACP legislative efforts depends on the actions of our members. There are no more effective public safety advocates than police chiefs talking to their representatives in Congress, since chiefs possess the expertise on law enforcement issues that representatives lack. We have the ability to serve as a resource for our political leaders, to let them know which proposals help and which hinder our ability to effectively fulfill our mission.
As such, your knowledge and experience can only serve our purposes well when your representatives know who you are. To be truly effective advocates for the law enforcement community, it is vital that you establish a relationship with your elected representatives. As police chiefs, we are responsible for providing public safety; thus, it is our duty to ensure that the laws our national, state, and local legislatures enact are sensible and will allow our agencies to both overcome successfully the challenges confronting us and protect effectively the citizens and communities we serve.
Because it is so critically important that the voices of the law enforcement community be heard, the IACP has created the Legislative Action Center (LAC), where you can write or e-mail your senators and representatives on these important issues. The LAC includes sample letters about the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Byrne-JAG reauthorization, the COPS program, and the Homeland Security and Neighborhood Safety Trust Fund.
I ask that you visit the LAC and take action today. Make your voice heard. The center may be accessed online at www.theiacp.org. I urge you to contact your representatives today. In addition, visit with them when they are in your district—make every effort to ensure that they are aware of your concerns as well as those of the law enforcement community. To aid you in this effort, there are several documents on the IACP Web site—including our Legislative Agenda for the 110th Congress and an analysis of the administration’s proposed fiscal year 2008 budget—that can help prepare you for discussions with your elected representatives as well as members of your community.
Using these documents as a starting point, you can take the opportunity to discuss your local needs and concerns. The important task is to establish a relationship with your representatives so that they and you can communicate frequently on the issues facing your community and your profession.
However you decide to do so, it is imperative that you get involved. There is too much at stake for law enforcement executives to sit on the sidelines as our elected leaders consider legislation that could dramatically alter the way our agencies operate. If we do not speak up and make our voices heard, our agencies could be asked to undertake a mission for which we lack the proper resources and could be confronted with new laws and regulations that hinder our ability to protect our communities.