After House zeroes funding for cops, Senator calls on Senate, House members resolving final spending bill to fund COPS and Byrne Grants at highest level possible
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) continued his fight to ensure funding for community policing efforts, this week calling on House and Senate members finalizing the Justice Department’s spending bill to include at least $200 million for the popular Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring (COPS) Program. Earlier this year, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives zeroed out the program in their version of the spending bill; the Senate last week approved a bill which included $200 million for the competitive grant program. Because of differences in the bills, a conference committee has been appointed to craft a final measure.
“Here’s what I know: At a time of great economic uncertainty, cities and towns across my home state of New Jersey have been forced to furlough or lay off hundreds of police officers, making our communities less safe,” said Menendez. “The need is real and the COPS program works. It puts more officers on the streets, keeping us safe. This should be a no-brainer – we must provide as much support possible for this locally driven program, period.”
In a letter signed by several other members of Congress, Menendez urged the conferees to support the funding levels appropriated by the Senate for the COPS Program as well as the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program. House Republicans did not provide funding for the COPS Hiring Program in their appropriations bill and they provided $38 million less than the Senate for Byrne JAG.
More than 700 police officers were let go in New Jersey just this year and there are 4,000 fewer officers today in New Jersey than there were at the end of 2009. In October, Menendez announced that 12 communities in New Jersey received a total of $20.8 million to hire and support 78 officers for the next three years. More than 150 New Jersey localities had applied for the COPS grants.
N.J. Congressman Pascrell, co-sponsored a motion in the House to instruct the conferees to include as much funding for the COPS Program as possible. That motion passed 265-160.
This push comes just two weeks after Menendez sponsored the Teachers and First Responders Jobs bill, which would have provided resources to greatly expand hiring efforts for police officers and firefighters as well as funding to put teachers back to work. While the bill was supported by 75% of Americans, the legislation was killed by Senate Republicans.
Full text of the letter:
November 7, 2011
Dear Senator Mikulski, Senator Hutchison, Congressman Wolf, and Congressman 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.