n July 22, President Bush signed into law H.R. 218, the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act. The law will allow off-duty and retired officers to carry concealed weapons throughout the country, regardless of state or local firearms restrictions.
The law will exempt qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from state and local prohibitions on the carrying of concealed firearms. To qualify, officers would have to maintain appropriate firearms training and carry identification showing their affiliation with a law enforcement agency.
In addition, officers who carry weapons when they are under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating or hallucinatory drugs would not be allowed to carry concealed weapons.
The IACP strongly opposed this legislation because of concerns related to officer and citizen safety, use-of-force and firearm training standards, officer identification and eligibility issues, supervision of retired police, liability concerns, and a fundamental belief that states and localities should determine who is eligible to carry firearms in their communities.
House Passes C-J-S Appropriations Bill,
Cuts Funding for Police Assistance
On July 8, the House approved the fiscal year 2005 C-J-S (Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary) appropriations bill (H.R. 4754), which funds the majority of state and local law enforcement assistance programs. Funding for the three primary law enforcement assistance programs—the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG), the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant program, and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program—were all significantly cut.
The bill provides $20.6 billion for the Department of Justice, $1.0 billion more than fiscal year 2004, and $901.7 million above the president's proposed budget request.
The House has agreed with the president's proposal to consolidate several of the main state and local law enforcement assistance grant programs. Under the bill, the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant program and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG) would be combined into a single program known as the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), which would receive $634 million. While this is an increase of $126 million over the president's request, it represents a decrease of $250 million (28 percent) from fiscal year 2004 funding. In 2004 these two programs received $884 million, which was a significant cut from 2003, in which they received $1.377 billion.
The budget for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) would also be significantly reduced. The bill would provide just $113 million, down from $756 million in 2004 and $1.15 billion in 2003. That represents an 85 percent decrease from last year, and a 90 percent decrease from 2003.
In 2004 the total funding for these three main grant programs was $1.64 billion. The appropriations bill passed by the Committee would provide just $747 million, a cut of $893 million, or almost 55 percent.
The IACP is concerned about the cuts to these crucial grant programs for the law enforcement community. We will continue to work to ensure that these programs are sufficiently funded.
FCC Rules Internet Telephone
Calls Subject to Wiretap Laws
On August 4, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took the first step toward requiring Internet phone providers to comply with law enforcement wiretapping requests. The preliminary decision will require voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to comply with the same law enforcement rules as telephone carriers. According to the FCC, VoIP service is likely to replace much traditional phone service in coming years.
By a vote of 5-0, the FCC said VoIP providers should be subject to the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which ensures that law enforcers will be able to keep up with changing communications technologies. The 1994 law requires the telecommunications industry to build into its products tools that federal investigators can use to eavesdrop on conversations after getting court approval.
In March, lawyers for the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration asked the FCC to affirm that Internet calls fall under CALEA. The IACP supported this request. The IACP believes it is important that VoIP technology be covered by CALEA.
In a July 19 letter to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, the IACP expressed its concern about a bill (S. 2281) being considered that seeks to protect emerging Internet phone services from state regulation and taxation. In the letter, the IACP argued that the bill as written would set a new and different standard for information service providers and does not require VoIP providers to provide law enforcement with the same access to information or to develop the various technical solution needed to safeguard the lawful surveillance capabilities of our nation's law enforcement agencies.
This greatly concerns the law enforcement community, as many carriers who use VoIP-type technologies have already claimed that they are not required to obey court orders for intercepts because the CALEA legislation, which was enacted in 1994, did not include these new technologies.
In its letter, the IACP argued that this is simply unacceptable. At no time has the need to obtain better intelligence to stop terrorism and fight crime in the United States has been more critical. In particular, there is a growing need to strengthen our ability to conduct lawful communications intercepts. Unfortunately, it is the IACP's belief that this legislation, as drafted, would have effectively barred law enforcement from the lawful collection of criminal and national security evidence.
When the committee considered the bill on July 22, the bill was substantially amended. The sponsor of the bill, Senator John Sununu (R-New Hampshire), offered an amendment to remove a provision that exempted VoIP providers from complying with law enforcement wiretaps.
A floor vote is not expected before the 108th Congress adjourns in November. ■