Days after the U.S. Department of Justice reported the first national decline in law enforcement officer positions in the last 25 years, U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) recommitted themselves to defending local law enforcement jobs. In a letter to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee, the two lawmakers urged support of funding for the COPS program as the FY2012 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill is reconciled with the Senate. Yesterday, the Senate voted to approve its version of the legislation by a vote of 69-30, which includes $232 million for COPS and $200 million for the COPS Hiring program. In July, the House CJS Subcommittee recommended eliminating COPS.
The text of the letter follows:
Dear Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Dicks, Chairman Wolf, and Ranking Member Fattah:
As you continue your work to appropriately allocate limited resources in the Fiscal Year 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you reconsider proposals to eliminate the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office and its corresponding programs. The COPS office provides invaluable resources and technical assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies. We believe continued investment in the COPS program is critical to ensuring our men and women in uniform have the support and tools necessary to keep our families and communities safe.
A recent report from the COPS Office entitled "The Impact of the Economic Downturn on American Police Agencies" reveals that 2011 could produce the first national decline in law enforcement officer positions in the last 25 years. According to the report, nearly 12,000 law enforcement officers will lose their jobs this year while an estimated 30,000 law enforcement jobs are unfilled. As a result of diminished budgets and staffing shortages, many agencies have made the difficult decision to no longer respond to certain crimes such as motor vehicle thefts or non-injury motor vehicle accidents; they have cut back on investigations of property crimes, tracking fugitives, and low-level narcotics cases; and agencies have also reduced investments in officer training, technology, and communications. This decline in our nation's law enforcement will have a serious negative impact on the safety of our communities and security of our nation.
As the former Sheriff of King County, Washington and the former Mayor of Paterson, New Jersey respectively, we have seen firsthand the many ways COPS assists local communities in combating crime. Since its inception the COPS program has placed 117,000 officers in communities across the United States to advance community policing and crime prevention efforts. These are critical bodies on the street patrolling high crime neighborhoods, working on drug and gang task forces, or working as school resource officers to improve the safety of our children's classrooms.
During debate on the FY2011 Continuing Resolution, a bipartisan majority of members voted to restore nearly $300 million to the COPS office. Earlier this year, 115 members in the House -- Democrats and Republicans -- reaffirmed their support of continued funding for the COPS programs for FY2012. These programs supplement the manpower and incentivize collaboration across agencies necessary to build upon successful crime reduction efforts over the past 20 years.
While we are disappointed with the Committee's recommendation to eliminate the COPS Office and its programs, we are encouraged by Chairman Wolf's comments during the full committee markup of H.R. 2596 on July 20, 2011 where he expressed a desire to work with us moving forward to restore funds to the COPS program. Our colleagues in the Senate have also demonstrated their support for the continuation of this critical law enforcement program. Today, with bipartisan support the Senate passed a "minibus" appropriations bill that provides $232 million for COPS and $200 million for the COPS Hiring program.
As you continue to work with your colleagues in the Senate to reconcile differences between the competing FY2012 CJS proposals, we respectfully request that you continue funding for COPS. The COPS programs are critical to ensuring that state and local law enforcement have the tools, personnel, and resources necessary to protect and serve their communities and our nation. We appreciate the difficult task before you to appropriately rebalance limited federal resources and thank you for your consideration of this request and willingness to work with us in support of our men and women in uniform.
DAVE REICHERT BILL PASCRELL, JR
Member of Congress Member of Congress