In the last several years, the IACP and the law enforcement community as a whole have grown increasingly concerned over the steady reduction in funding being made available for law enforcement assistance programs.
Unfortunately, the proposed fiscal year 2007 budget recently released by the Bush administration does little to ease this concern. Based on an analysis by the IACP, it appears that state and local law enforcement assistance programs did not fare well. Total proposed funding for law enforcement assistance grants at the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security is $1.535 billion. Overall, funding levels for assistance programs that are designed to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat crime and terrorism were reduced by nearly $1.1 billion when compared to fiscal year 2006.
Regrettably, the cuts to law enforcement assistance programs contained in the proposed fiscal year 2007 budget are simply part of a continuing trend in the last few years. Since fiscal year 2004, assistance programs that are designed to assist law enforcement and other public safety agencies combat crime and prevent and respond to terrorist attacks have been slashed by more than $3.1 billion.
An even more troubling perspective on these funding proposals becomes apparent when you compare the proposed fiscal year 2007 levels to those of fiscal year 1997. In 1997, law enforcement assistance programs at the Department of Justice (COPS, the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program, and the Edward Byrne Memorial Grant program) received $2.48 billion in funding. In 2007 the president has proposed funding the law enforcement assistance programs at the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice programs at a combined level of $1.53 billion. That is a decrease of $950 million, a decline of 38 percent.
Some of the most successful programs are on the chopping block, including the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program and the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program. It is no exaggeration to say that these programs have played a fundamental role in strengthening the core capabilities of police agencies and improving their crime-fighting and counterterrorism efforts. In the latest suggested cuts, the Bush administration would cut funding for the COPS program by 78 percent (a reduction of $376 million) and completely eliminate both the JAG program (a cut of $416 million) and the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (a cut of $400 million) in the fiscal year 2007 budget.
These proposals are simply unacceptable. For four and a half years, law enforcement agencies and officers have made the sacrifices necessary to meet the challenges of fighting both crime and terrorism. They have done so because they understand the importance of what they have been asked to do, and they remain committed to fulfilling their mission of protecting the public. But the expenditure of Chief Mary Ann Viverette Gaithersburg, Maryland resources necessary to maintain this effort have left many police departments in a financial situation so dire that their ability to provide the services their citizens expect, and deserve, has been threatened.
This cannot continue. If our homeland security efforts are to have any chance of succeeding, it is absolutely vital that Congress and the administration make the necessary resources available to allow law enforcement agencies to mount effective anticrime programs, which will also serve as effective counterterrorism programs.
Unfortunately, as the IACP analysis makes clear, the cuts contained in the proposed fiscal year 2007 budget have the potential to cripple the capabilities of law enforcement agencies nationwide and force many departments to take officers off the streets, leading to more crime and violence in our hometowns and ultimately less security for our homeland.
Starting with the IACP Day on the Hill, the IACP will be doing all it can to ensure that our elected officials understand the needs of the law enforcement community and how vital these resources are if we are to meet the challenges that face us.
But to be successful in this effort we all need to get involved. It is imperative that you contact your elected representatives and let them know what the loss of federal assistance funding will mean to your ability to police your community effectively.
There is too much at stake for police executives to remain on the sidelines while our elected leaders consider proposals that could dramatically alter the way our agencies operate. If we do not speak up, our agencies could be asked to undertake a mission for which we lack the proper resources and that could degrade our ability to protect our communities.
The entire law enforcement community, officers and executives alike, has had to accept new responsibilities and adapt to meet the new reality we all share. But we must do more. We must ensure that our elected leaders understand the impact that their decision will have on our communities and the citizens we serve.