Issue Position: Public Safety
Our first responders - fire fighters, police officers, and emergency services workers - are not only on the front lines of our nation's homeland defense but also have the burden of keeping our families and communities safe from crime, fires, and other public safety hazards. That is why have I fought hard to do all I can to ensure that our first responders have the resources necessary to do their jobs and to keep us safe. I have championed full funding for programs such as the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program (LLEBG), the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, which was named after a New York City police officer killed in the line of duty, the COPS program, the FIRE Act, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Firefighters ("SAFER") Act. Specifically, I have worked on a bi-partisan basis to restore cuts repeatedly proposed by President Bush to many of these programs because I believe that our first responders deserve, not cuts, but our gratitude and full support.
Indeed, I was extremely disappointed by President Bush's decision to seek to effectively eliminate several important law enforcement programs and to cut important funding for our fire fighters in his Fiscal year 2006 Budget. These programs in the past have provided states, local governments and first responders with federal funds to support efforts to hire additional fire fighters and police officers, and reduce crime and increase public safety, such as by enhancing security measures around schools, establishing or supporting drug courts, and preventing violent and/or drug-related crime. In fiscal year 2004, for example, New York State was allocated almost $28 million under the Byrne Formula Grant program alone. That same year, a number of communities across New York State were eligible to receive collectively millions of dollars in Local Law Enforcement Block Grant and COPS funding. Dozens of fire departments across New York State have received FIRE Act funding to help them in their efforts. But more, not fewer, resources are needed.
Recognizing that combating crime requires a comprehensive effort, I have also introduced or cosponsored bills that became law that were designed to help prevent crime and capture criminals, including legislation to increase funding to address the backlog in the DNA analysis of rape kits, provide additional resources to enhance the operation of the AMBER Alert system, and encourage businesses to implement "Code Adam," a protocol that can be used to protect children from being abducted.
In addition, I am an original cosponsor of the "Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act," also known as the "hate crimes" bill, which expands federal jurisdiction to reach serious and violent hate crimes. I also strongly support the reauthorization of the assault weapons ban and have called upon the Bush Administration to take additional steps to keep guns out the hands of criminals and possible terrorists.
Protecting New York and our nation from terrorist threats and providing our first responders with the homeland security resources they need has also been a top priority. Recently, I re-introduced legislation designed to increase the flow of homeland security funds directly to our local communities and their first responders. The Domestic Defense Fund Act of 2005 would provide direct funding to cities and towns, as well as to states, using a threat and risk based formula. This legislation also calls for significant increases in federal homeland security funding and provides local communities and first responders with the flexibility they need regarding the use of that funding.