As police leaders, we occupy a unique place in our communities. Our citizens rely upon us to protect them, our officers rely upon on our leadership, and our elected officials rely upon our public safety expertise. It is our duty to take all the necessary actions to ensure that our departments have both the resources and the capabilities necessary to protect the citizens we serve. This means that we must act not only to address immediate local needs unique to our departments but also take action on larger issues that affect our profession as a whole.
For example, over the last two years, funding levels for critical federal law enforcement assistance programs such as the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, the Community Oriented Policing Services Program, the State Homeland Security Grant Program, the Urban Area Security Initiative, and the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program have been reduced by more than $2 billion, a cut of nearly 50 percent.
What is even more alarming is that the fiscal year 2007 budget scheduled to be released in February is likely to contain even deeper cuts in these vital law enforcement assistance programs.
These deep funding cuts have already begun to reduce the ability of many agencies to maintain critical anticrime and antiterrorism programs that have played a vital role in our ability to keep our communities safe from crime and violence. This is simply unacceptable.
Rest assured that in the coming months the IACP will continue doing all that 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. We will drive home the message that funding for our nation’s law enforcement agencies is an issue that must be viewed as separate and apart from politics.
If we are to be truly successful in this effort, it is imperative that we all get involved. It is critically important 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 no more effective public safety advocate than a police chief talking to his or her representative, since the chief possesses the expertise on law enforcement issues the representatives lack. We have the ability to serve as a resource for our political leaders, to let them know which proposals would help us and which would hinder our ability to fulfill our mission.
But your knowledge and experience can only be put to good use when your representatives know who you are. In order to be truly effective advocates for the law enforcement community, it is vital that you establish a relationship with your elected representatives. As police leaders, we are responsible for protecting public safety. Thus, it is our duty to ensure that the laws that are enacted are sensible and will allow our agencies to successfully overcome the challenges confronting us and to effectively protect the citizens and communities we serve.
I urge you to act today and contact your representatives. Visit with them when they are back in your district. Call them, write them, send them an e-mail message, send them a fax, but make every effort to ensure that they are aware of your concerns and those of the law enforcement community. The IACP Legislative Agenda, which is available at the IACP Web site, (www.theiacp.org), provides an overview of the issues confronting our profession. Use this document as a starting point with your representatives, but also take the opportunity to discuss your local needs and concerns. The important task is to establish a relationship with your representatives so that they and you can communicate frequently on the issues facing your community and your profession.
Another opportunity to establish this relationship is by joining with other IACP members on March 6 and 7 to participate in IACP’s Day on the Hill. The Day on the Hill gives IACP members the opportunity to meet with their representatives and express their views on the needs of the law enforcement community and to advance the IACP’s legislative agenda. This year’s Day on the Hill is scheduled to coincide with the midyear meetings of the IACP Division of State Associations of Chiefs of Police and the IACP Legislative Committee. If you are interested in joining us in this important endeavor, please call the IACP legislative staff or visit the IACP Web site for more information.
Whether you can join us on March 6 and 7, it is imperative that you get involved. There is too much at stake for law enforcement executives to remain on the sidelines as our elected leaders consider legislation that could dramatically alter the way our agencies operate. If we do not speak up and make our voices heard, our agencies could be asked to undertake a mission for which we lack the proper resources and confronted by new laws and regulations that will hinder our to protect our communities.
The entire law enforcement community, officers and executives alike, accepted new responsibilities and adapted to meet the new reality we all share. But we must do more. We must ensure that our elected leaders have the benefit of our wisdom and experience as they develop and debate public safety policy.