By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
n late January, the House of Representatives introduced the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a piece of legislation aimed at stimulating the U.S. economy. Included in this legislation is $4 billion to support state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies: $3 billion for the Edward R. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) program and $1 billion for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grants.
In a letter sent to the House of Representatives expressing support for these provisions, the IACP stated, “The IACP strongly believes that, by restoring funding for these critical programs, Congress will significantly strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to combat crime and violence in our communities.”
The House action follows a Senate hearing on the need for law enforcement assistance funds in the stimulus package.
“We must act quickly and decisively to shore up state and local law enforcement, or face a reversal of the great strides we made to reduce crime in the 1990s,” said Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary during its first hearing of the 111th Congress.1
The Judiciary Committee held the hearing, titled “Helping State and Local Law Enforcement in an Economic Downturn,” to provide evidence for why additional funding for state, local, and tribal agencies should be included in the stimulus package currently being considered by Congress. There were several witnesses at the hearing, including Commissioner Charles Ramsey of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Police Department (and former chief of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department) and Chief Michael Schirling of the Burlington, Vermont, Police Department. Each presented arguments why funding for state, local, and tribal agencies is in dire straits and should be increased immediately.
Commissioner Ramsey said, “With cities and states universally scaling back their police operations, infrastructure, reducing or cancelling academy classes, cutting back investigative and patrol overtime, slowing their financial investment in technology and implementing hiring freezes for sworn and civilian positions, all of us, police, local, state, and federal government, have a stake in ensuring that public safety for the citizens in this country is not compromised.”2
Chief Schirling provided a perspective from small to large cities, where most of the U.S. population lives. He said, “This economic turmoil has caused concern for public safety resources because maintaining safe communities is arguably one of the key elements of economic vitality and growth for any community.”3
Congressional leaders have stated that they hope a stimulus bill can be worked out and presented to the new U.S. president in early spring, at the latest. The IACP encourages readers to urge their representatives to increase state, local, and tribal funding in any economic stimulus plan.
To aid in this task, the IACP has established the Legislative Action Center (LAC) online at http://stage.capwiz.com/theiacp/home/ . Using the LAC, readers can write their members of Congress; find a congressional directory; and get information on national, state, and local elections. The IACP encourages members to write their elected officials on issues important to the law enforcement community.
IACP Endorses Holder, Napolitano
The IACP recently announced its support for the nominees for U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, and secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, respectively.
In a letter sent to President Obama, IACP president Russell B. Laine wrote of Holder’s background and how it will allow him to foster and enhance the crucial partnership among federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. President Laine wrote, “The IACP believes that Mr. Holder’s years of service have clearly demonstrated he has the qualifications and experience necessary to be an effective leader of the U.S. Department of Justice.”
President Laine continued, “Mr. Holder’s broad base of experience provides him with a unique perspective on criminal justice issues. His service as both Deputy Attorney General and Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia gives him a thorough understanding of the crucial roleplayed by state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.”4
Laine also sent a letter to President Obama endorsing Governor Napolitano’s nomination as DHS secretary. In the letter, President Laine expressed that the governor’s years of service in state government clearly demonstrate her qualifications; she has the experience necessary to be an effective leader of DHS.
President Laine wrote, “The IACP believes that Governor Napolitano understands the crucial role played by state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies and will be a leader in coordinating federal, state, local, and tribal homeland security efforts.”
IACP Encourages President Obama to Retain FEMA within DHS
President Laine also recently encouraged President Obama to retain the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) within DHS. Some have expressed a desire to make FEMA a stand-alone agency—a change that the IACP strongly opposes.
In a letter to President Obama, President Laine said, “It is the IACP’s belief that removal of FEMA from DHS will erode the ability of our nation’s public safety agencies to develop and implement a coordinated and integrated emergency response effort.”
President Laine concluded his letter by stating the IACP’s continued commitment to work with both Congress and the administration to increase and improve U.S. emergency response capabilities, adding, “FEMA must play a central role in these efforts, and it is our belief that separating FEMA from the Department of Homeland Security will fragment and weaken our efforts in this critical area.” ■
1“Statement of the Honorable Patrick Leahy, United States Senator, Vermont, January 8, 2009,” Helping State and Local Law Enforcement during an Economic Downturn, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/testimony.cfm?id=3611&wit_id=2629 (accessed January 22, 2009).
2“Testimony of Charles H. Ramsey, January 8, 2009,” Helping State and Local Law Enforcement during an Economic Downturn, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/testimony.cfm?id=3611&wit_id=7558 (accessed January 22, 2009).
3“Testimony of Michael E. Schirling,” Helping State and Local Law Enforcement during an Economic Downturn, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/testimony.cfm?id=3611&wit_id=7557 (accessed January 22, 2009).
4IACP, letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, December 19, 2008, http://judiciary.senate.gov/nominations/111thCongressExecutiveNominations/upload/121908-InternationalAssociationOfChiefsOfPolice.pdf (accessed January 22, 2008).