Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
n May 24, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill reauthorizing the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) program. The bill, S. 231, would authorize $1.1 billion in funding until the year 2012. Although this is a vital step in the IACP’s efforts to secure full funding for Byrne-JAG, it is important to note that this reauthorization is not a funding measure; rather, this bill serves as a fiscal blueprint that sets specific spending levels.
IACP president Joseph C. Carter applauded the Senate’s passage of S. 231, saying, “This measure would help law enforcement agencies fight against drug abuse, crime, and violence, and it would improve the criminal justice system. The Byrne-JAG program has consistently provided valuable and critical resources to state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies, and the IACP urges the House of Representatives to approve this legislation.”
Throughout the budget process, the IACP will work closely with Congress to ensure that the needs of the law enforcement community are met in fiscal year (FY) 2008.
IACP Testifies before Senate Committee
On May 23, IACP second vice president Russell B. Laine testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs on rising violent crime rates in the United States. Specifically, Chief Laine discussed the challenges currently confronting the U.S. law enforcement community and the need for an increased level of support from the federal government.
In the last two years there has been a steady increase in the rate of violent crime in the United States. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Report, violent crime rose at a rate of 2.3 percent during 2005. For the first six months of 2006, the crime rate rose at a rate of 3.7 percent when compared with the same time frame in 2005.
Chief Laine testified, “It is telling that this increase in violent crime, drug sales, and gang activity in America corresponds directly to the substantial decline in funding for state, tribal, and local law enforcement from federal government assistance programs.”
When compared with the FY 2002 funding level of $3.8 billion, the administration’s FY 2008 proposal represents a reduction of more than $3.2 billion—or about 85 percent—for critical law enforcement assistance programs.
Chief Laine concluded his testimony by saying, “The reductions these critical programs have suffered in recent years and the cuts contained in the proposed FY 2008 budget have the potential certainty to cripple the capabilities of law enforcement agencies nationwide and force many departments to take officers off the streets, eliminate the promise of vital communications between agencies during a major public safety emergency or natural disaster—all leading to more crime and violence in our hometowns and, ultimately, less security for our homeland.”1
The IACP will keep members informed as these assistance grant bills are debated in Congress.
IACP Supports Critical Information Sharing Program
On May 29, President Carter sent a letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson, Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, voicing support for the Vertical Intelligence Terrorism Analysis Link (VITAL) program. This program would ensure that state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies are fully integrated in the intelligence cycle at the federal level by promoting two-way information sharing.
In the letter to Chairman Thompson, President Carter stated, “The VITAL program emphasizes the critical role that state, tribal, and local law enforcement must play in the development and dissemination of critical intelligence to detect, prevent, prepare for, and respond to acts of terrorism. It is IACP’s belief that it will also help ensure that law enforcement agencies at all levels of government are equal partners, and that the experience and capabilities of all parties are realized, by allowing state, tribal, and local law enforcement to participate more actively in the intelligence gathering and sharing process.”
House and Senate conferees are currently considering adding VITAL program language to the final 9/11 legislation, which will be in House and Senate conference shortly. Conferees will discuss bills that have been passed (H.R. 1 and S. 4, respectively) and attempt to compromise on one bill to be passed by both chambers and sent to the president for his signature. ■
1Statement of Russell B. Laine, Second Vice President, International Association of Chiefs of Police, before the Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, United States Senate, May 23, 2007, www.theiacp.org/documents/pdfs/TestimonyandCommunications/ChiefLaneTestimony.pdf, June 1, 2007.