By Meredith Ward, Manager, Legislative and Media Affairs, IACP
n late October, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2011 was introduced as an amendment to the Senate Agriculture; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; and Transportation fiscal year 2012 appropriations minibus. The legislation, introduced by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), is strongly supported by the IACP; the establishment of such a commission is one of the top priorities for the association. The legislation would allow for a long overdue comprehensive examination and report on the state of law enforcement and criminal justice in the United States. Unfortunately, the amendment needed 60 votes to pass and fell short of that mark, 57–43.
For more than 20 years, the IACP has advocated for the creation of a commission that would follow in the footsteps of the 1965 President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. The work of that commission and the 200 recommendations it produced marked the beginning of a sea change in law enforcement’s methods for dealing with crime and the public and built the framework for many of the highly effective law enforcement and public safety initiatives that have been in place for the last 40 years.
The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2011 embraces the same mission as the 1965 Commission. As clearly set forth in the legislation—if passed—the commission would be tasked with conducting a comprehensive examination of all aspects of the criminal justice system, including but not limited to the prevention of crime, law enforcement, corrections, and offender reentry.
In conducting this critical review, the commission would have the opportunity to examine and develop recommendations addressing the broad range of new and emerging challenges that confront law enforcement today, from cybercrime to nontraditional organized crime and from violent street gangs to homeland security. In addition, the commission would also review the impact, the difficulties, and the opportunities that are presented to the criminal justice community by technological innovations.
Many IACP members from across the United States called and emailed their senators and asked them to support this legislation. Additionally, all of the major law enforcement organizations and many state and local groups, including the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Criminal Justice Association, supported this legislation. It is because of these efforts that the legislation came close to passage.
For far too long, the U.S. law enforcement and criminal justice system has lacked a strategic plan that will guide an integrated public safety and homeland security effort in the years ahead. The IACP will continue the fight toward passage of this legislation in the coming months.
Holder, Napolitano Speak at IACP 2011
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke at the 118th Annual IACP Conference in Chicago, Illinois, October 22–26, 2011. Both praised the efforts of state, local, and tribal law enforcement and pledged support for many top priorities for the law enforcement community.
Holder praised the success of the Law Enforcement National Data Exchange as well as the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI). The attorney general said, “By fostering increased partnership among law enforcement agencies, as well as private-sector entities, NSI is allowing officers to connect suspicious, but seemingly disparate, pieces of information. As a result, potential terror attacks are being identified—and prevented.”
The attorney general also pledged support for the allocation of the D-Block to public safety: “When it comes to meeting your communications needs, let me assure you that the Justice Department has not—and will not—let up on our efforts to ensure that you have meaningful, affordable access to radio spectrum when and where you need it.”
The attorney general also expressed strong support for the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program and committed to saving and creating first responder jobs. Finally, Holder renewed his commitment to reducing officer deaths and injuries and for the IACP Center for the Prevention of Violence Against the Police.
Napolitano praised the law enforcement community and the IACP, saying the “IACP has both informed and strengthened many of the programs and initiatives we have put in place since 9/11 to keep our nation safe—from our efforts to improve the sharing of information, to making our grant programs more effective,,to developing better technology for police and first responders.”
Napolitano also praised the efforts of state, local, and tribal law enforcement in their participation in the fusion center network, NSI training, and efforts to detect and prevent acts of terrorism in the United States. ■
Please cite as:
Meredith Ward, "National Criminal Justice Commission Legislation Falls Short of Passage," Legislative Alert, The Police Chief 78 (December 2011): 10.