Casey: Cuts to Law Enforcement Programs Will Make Neighborhoods Less Safe

In Letter, Casey Pushes Against Proposed Cuts to Program that has Funded More Than 3,600 Law Enforcement Officials in PA

WASHINGTON, DCU.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to adequately fund programs that support local law enforcement. A House proposal would completely eliminate funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring (COPS) Program, which would be devastating to communities struggling to afford enough law enforcement officials to keep neighborhoods safe. 

“Cuts to these programs would hurt local law enforcement in Pennsylvania and across the country. As a result, our streets would be less safe and our nation less secure,” said Senator Casey. “Communities struggling to recover from the economic downturn should not be burdened with the added stress of losing this critical support to keep their families and neighborhoods safe.” 

Senator Casey has consistently fought for the COPS Program. Experts cite this program as an important factor in driving down crime for eight consecutive years in the 1990s. Since 1995, the COPS program has put more than 120,000 community policy offers on the beat. In Pennsylvania, COPS grants have funded 3,651 additional police officers and sheriff’s deputies to engage in crime prevention.

The House proposal would also cut funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program. Senator Casey has been a vocal supporter of the Byrne/JAG program, writing a letter to House leadership earlier this year urging them to reconsider proposed cuts to the program. Annually, Byrne/JAG funding leads to over 200,000 arrests, over 50,000 weapons seized, and the breakup over approximately 9,000 methamphetamine labs.

Senator Casey joined 15 Senators in sending the letter to U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) as well as U.S. Representatives Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairs and Ranking Members for Commerce, Justice & Science.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Senator Mikulski, Senator Hutchison, Representative Wolf, and Representative Fattah: 

We write to express our strong support for the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring (COPS) Program and the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program. We appreciate the hard work and leadership you have shown on this legislation, particularly in this difficult fiscal environment.  Given the budget shortfalls faced by local communities, we ask that you support these critical state and local law enforcement assistance programs that are critically important to keep our communities safe. We strongly urge the conferees to support the funding levels appropriated by the Senate for these important programs.

In these difficult economic times, both small and large municipalities have been forced to reduce hiring of public safety officers and have even laid off police officers and firefighters, making our neighborhoods less safe. We must use every tool available to ensure that state and local law enforcement has the resources and the equipment necessary to effectively and efficiently fight crime.

As you know, the COPS Hiring Program is vital for local communities in their efforts to fight crime and we ask that you support this program at the levels appropriated in the Senate legislation. Since Congress first authorized the program in 1994, the COPS program has provided funding for localities to hire over 123,800 additional officers in over 12,634 jurisdictions. In the last fiscal year alone, the COPS Office provided funding to hire, preserve, or rehire 1,021 law enforcement officers.  In the last fiscal year, 2,700 communities nationwide applied for help to fund 9,000 officers for a total of $2 billion in requested funding but only 238 of the 2,700 communities applying (9% of the total applications) received funding. The demand for this funding at the local level greatly exceeds the available funds. For these reasons, we urge you to fund the COPS Hiring Program in the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill at a minimum of $200 million, the amount appropriated in the Senate-passed bill.

We also ask that you support the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) Program at the levels appropriated in the Senate legislation.  As you know, Byrne JAG is the cornerstone of federal crime-fighting programs because it supports the federal government’s crucial role in spurring innovation, as well as testing and replicating evidence-based practices nationwide. A key element of the Byrne JAG program is its flexibility in allowing localities to react to urgent challenges or new circumstances. In Fiscal Year 2010, over 1,500 local jurisdictions were awarded direct grants, and many more were awarded funds passed through by the state criminal justice planning agencies.  These funds provide necessary funding to combat drug and gang violence, reduce recidivism, and enhance drug treatment and enforcement programs.

We appreciate the hard work and leadership you have shown on this legislation, particularly in this difficult fiscal environment.  We also understand that much work remains to be done as you reconcile these bills in conference.  As you complete work on this legislation, we ask that you support funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and the Byrne JAG programs that help communities hire police officers.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.