By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
egislation supported by the IACP, S. 456, the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act, passed the Senate on September 21. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), would create new penalties for recruiting gang members and for gang-related crimes. It would also authorize grants for federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement efforts in combating gangs.
When the bill was introduced in January, IACP president Joseph C. Carter sent a letter of support to Sen. Feinstein. In the letter, President Carter wrote, “In recent years, incidents of gang-related crime and violence have increased at an alarming rate in communities throughout the United States. Unfortunately, law enforcement’s efforts to combat these crimes have been hindered by both a lack of resources and prosecutorial tools. The IACP believes that this legislation will help ensure that federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies have the tools and resources necessary to combat the growing problem of gang-related crime and violence.”
Specifically, S. 456 would do the following:
- Create “High Intensity Gang Activity Areas” (HIGAAs)
- Authorize at least $411.5 million in funding over five years for gang prevention and intervention efforts, a new program for gang protection block grants, and mentoring and after-school programs
- Establish a National Gang Research, Evaluation, and Policy Institute to collect, analyze, and teach best practices for fighting gang violence
- Create a National Commission on Crime Prevention to examine prevention and intervention strategies, identify programs ready for replication, and provide funding
- Authorize $100 million over five years to expand the Project Safe Neighborhood program, $50 million over five years for expansion of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Safe Streets Program, and $100 million over five years to expand crime control grants to state and local governments for hiring additional prosecutors and staff and technology needs
A companion piece of legislation has been introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (R-Calif.) in the House of Representatives.
Senate Passes Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act
On September 27, 2007, the Senate passed the IACP-supported Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA) as an amendment to the defense appropriations bill. The bill will now go to conference, where the House and Senate will work out their differences and produce a final bill.
The legislation will allow the federal government to provide technical support to state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies that are investigating hate crimes. In addition, both the House and Senate versions authorize the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to cover the costs of investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.
President Carter sent a letter to members of the House and Senate expressing the IACP’s support for the bill. In his letter, he wrote, “Most hate crimes are, and should continue to be, investigated and prosecuted by state, tribal, and local authorities. Unfortunately, there are instances when, as a result of either insufficient resources or a lack of jurisdiction, state, tribal, and local authorities are unable to investigate these crimes properly.”
IACP Testifies before House Judiciary Subcommittee
Chief Scott Knight, Chairman of the IACP’s Firearms Committee, testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on September 6 in opposition to H.R. 2726, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2007 (LEOSA).
H.R. 2726 and its companion Senate bill (S. 376), which passed the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, would amend the original LEOSA bill, passed in 2002, by weakening the standards and training requirements an off-duty or retired officer must meet to carry a concealed firearm anywhere in the country.
The IACP opposes LEOSA because of its belief that states and localities should have the right to determine who is eligible to carry firearms in their communities. As Chief Knight stated in his testimony, “This legislation would undercut the ability of state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies to determine what standards best meet the needs of the departments and the communities they serve.”1
In addition, the IACP opposes the legislation because it requires only that retired officers be trained in their state or former agency, but not in the state or jurisdiction where they would carry the weapon. As most states and jurisdictions vary on their training requirements, police chiefs who have employed the most rigorous training program, a strict standard of accountability, and stringent policies should not be forced to permit officers who may not meet those standards to carry a concealed weapon in their jurisdiction.
The bill must be approved by the full Senate, the House Committee on the Judiciary, and the full House before it can be sent to the president for his signature.
IACP Releases Report on Gun Violence
On September 19, the IACP, in collaboration with the Joyce Foundation, released a groundbreaking report on reducing gun violence, titled Taking a Stand: Reducing Gun Violence in Our Communities.2
Taking a Stand is the result of a collaboration of law enforcement officers, mayors, district attorneys, and public health officials from around the United States. More than 200 participants met in Chicago in early 2007 in response to FBI statistics showing an alarming increase in gun violence over the past two years.
The 39 recommendations in the report supply a clear road map for federal, state, tribal, and local governments, as well as community leaders and philanthropic organizations, to help reduce firearm-related violence in our communities.
As part of the release of the report, the IACP held a press conference on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, where several members of Congress expressed their support for the proposals in the report.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said at the press conference, “The IACP’s compelling report and specific recommendations are a clear call to action. Without further delay, Congress and the administration need to do our part by enacting concrete reforms that will reduce crime and protect the safety of police officers and all Americans.”
The press conference also featured Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), and the mayor of Milwaukee, Democrat Tom Barrett.
“Besides the tragic loss of life and injuries associated with gun violence, we are creating environments that breed more crime. We need to implement common-sense policies that will curb gun violence and reduce gang activity— making our communities safer and stronger,”said Rep. Kirk.■
1The full testimony of Chief Scott Knight is available at http://judiciary.house.gov/media/pdfs/Knight070906.pdf (accessed October 3, 2007).
2International Association of Chiefs of Police, Taking a Stand: Reducing Gun Violence in Our Communities, by Christine Allred and Valerie Denney, September 2007, http://www.theiacp.org/documents/pdfs/Publications/ACF1875.pdf (accessed October 3, 2007).