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Floor Speeches

COPS Program Funding

Pascrell (D-NJ):  Thank you, Mr. Dicks. I want to thank Mr. Dicks for his leadership on this issue. I want to thank Mr. Rogers for his open-mindedness, as usual, hopefully, as we go into this discussion.  As Co-Chair of the House Law Enforcement Caucus, I want to call everyone's attention to one of the glaring differences between the bill the Senate passed earlier this week and the one reported by our own Appropriations Committee: funding for our local police officers. The Senate bill contained $230 million for the COPS office. This bill completely eliminated funding all together. We are here today to try to rectify that situation.

Mr. Speaker, we know that state and local governments are still slashing their budgets as a result of a recession. In fact, just last week the Department of Justice released a sobering report, "The Impact of the Economic Downturn on American Police Agencies." I think all of our members should read it. I want to place this as exhibit A in my presentation today, Mr. Speaker. The report revealed that nearly 12,000 law enforcement officers will lose their jobs this year alone. Another 30,000 positions remain unfilled, and 2011 would produce the first national decline in law enforcement officers in 25 years. Less cops on the beat means more crime on the streets, plain and simple. It is a very specific aspect of this particular problem. It's not going to get better.

I worked very closely with my counterpart, Representative Reichert, who was a sheriff officer in Washington state, to co-chair the Law Enforcement Caucus. Early this year, 115 members of this body, Republicans and Democrats, supported these programs in a letter to appropriators. It is just not enough, Mr. Speaker, to pat our police officers on the back. We must support them. The federal government has a particular responsibility. Specifically to debate the issue and look at the issue of homeland security. They are the first there with our firefighters if there's any man-made or act of nature. They show up first before anybody from the federal government. To see the number of police officers being reduced in this country is unconscionable, particularly after 9/11. Our crime is rising specifically in the towns where these police officers have been laid off, furloughed, demoted, and certainly lack of promotions. The federal government has some responsibility here. I would like to place into the record also a very strong statement on the issue of the matter of crime in our cities and in our towns. I want to make that exhibit B as well. I will produce that with your permission, Mr. Speaker, with no objections. I think the homeland security issue is a critical issue.

Let's bring it back to our hometowns. Police departments in the United States now have put on a list of priorities what they are going to respond to and what they cannot respond to. Listen to these. They stop responding to motor vehicle thefts in many towns. they've stopped responding to burglar alarms that go off. They've stopped responding to noninjury motor vehicle accidents. In many towns, a warrant squad, if you don't know what warrant squad is, you don't know what they do, they have been minimized, two, three people left, to try to find folks that have perpetrated crimes. They have reported decreases in investigations of property crimes. You talk about a response when you talk the police department, what is the response in terms of investigating these particular crimes? This has all come out under the justice department. I'm not making these numbers up. That's why I submit for the record the numbers. Let me just conclude, Mr. Speaker, in saying this has to be a priority. protecting the public is our primary priority. and I ask consideration of what Mr. Dicks is putting forth today. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Dicks.


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