First Responders to Congress: We Cant Do It Alone
Speziale, Pascrell participate in forum on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON - Much more must be done to make Passaic County as safe as it needs to be, Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale told a Congressional panel in Washington today. Sheriff Speziale testified in front of the Democratic Task Force on Homeland Security at the request of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ, 8th), who sits on the Task Force and the House Select Committee on Homeland Security. Pascrell questioned the Sheriff about hometown security preparations since 9-11. They concluded that while local officials have been working hard to make Passaic County safer, the federal government has given too little funding and the Department of Homeland Security has provided too little direction to local departments.
"In Congress, I have pushed hard to give the men and women fighting terrorism in our hometowns the resources and direction necessary to make our communities safe," said Rep. Pascrell. "The Sheriff's informative, passionate testimony here today will hopefully send a signal to the rest of Congress that we have to do so much more, and we need to do it quickly."
"The dollars and assistance are simply not there. We are providing increased security around the county and are proud to do it, but it costs additional dollars. The federal government needs to be our partner in this fight," said Speziale. "Everyone knows there is no law enforcement tool more important than the officer out in the community, who interfaces with the people and gathers intelligence directly from the street. We need to expand our ability to put officers in the streets, properly train them, and equip them with the gear they need. But the federal government has to help us do this.
The Administration has recently gone on a whirlwind publicity campaign to announce state homeland security grants - funding that is not nearly enough, said witnesses from across the country here today.
"We have heard from this Administration that the notion that there isn't enough money for our hometowns is 'misinformation'," said Pascrell. "We heard from Jerry Speziale and the other local responders from around the country today that the only misinformation about homeland security funding is coming from the Administration. Our hometowns are in dire need of help."
Pascrell frequently consults Speziale and other police and fire personnel to aid his work on the Task Force and the Select Committee on Homeland Security. Pascrell has long stated that homeland security measures must be created from "the ground up," by seeking the advice of our first responders in the field.
The Task Force heard from an eclectic group of homeland security workers from across the country. Mayors, county officials, first responders and homeland security experts told their personal stories about their efforts to make their hometowns safe from terrorism.
One witness who took a broader look at homeland security was Rand Beers, a former National Security Council expert under the Bush Administration who quit due to his disagreements with the President's homeland security policies. Beers gave impressive testimony, telling the Task Force that the administration's foreign and domestic policies have massive shortcomings related to homeland security.