After a concerted bipartisan effort that began months ago, U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) successfully defended local law enforcement jobs this evening. With a vote of 298-121, the House reversed course and passed legislation funding the U.S. Department of Justice for 2012. The legislation includes $198.5 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office, $166 million of which will be made available for municipal police departments to apply for competitive grants to hire police officers.
"I am greatly heartened that common sense prevailed over petty politics with the passage of this legislation that includes funding to help communities keep police on the streets," said Pascrell, a member of the House Budget Committee. "This has been a battle we have been fighting all year. But with the help of my strong partnership with Congressman Reichert, and the support of the bipartisan Law Enforcement Caucus, the House and Senate have come together to support the police departments that protect our communities and families. I'm proud of what we've accomplished. But rest assured that if the need ever arises, we'll fight this fight over and over again. Fewer police means more crime, and the safety of our communities must never be compromised."
"I am proud to report that the collective voice of the law enforcement community and their advocates in Congress were heard," said Reichert. "The men and women who patrol and protect our neighborhoods are vital to maintaining public safety and this bill will ensure that many of them can continue to serve our communities. Understandably, my colleagues and I in the House are evaluating the effectiveness of every federal program in our effort to reduce the deficit. Reversing the decision to eliminate the COPS office proves that public safety is a national priority and an important investment. I was motivated in this effort by the firsthand knowledge that COPS plays an important role in protecting our businesses, homes, and families. I am grateful to Congressman Pascrell, the Law Enforcement Caucus, and all of the concerned citizens who joined me in standing up to preserve needed resources that keep us safe."
Congressmen Pascrell and Reichert, co-chairs of the House Law Enforcement Caucus, have worked together throughout the year to save the COPS office from elimination. In July, the two lawmakers rallied Congress members against the House Appropriations legislation that did not fund the COPS office at all. On November 3, House Democrats offered motion to instruct House negotiators to insist on funding the COPS program at the level set in the Senate appropriations bill. The motion passed with a vote of 265 -- 160, with 79 Republicans joining Democratic members in voting in support of the motion.
A report released last month by the U.S Department of Justice's COPS office revealed that that nearly 12,000 law enforcement officers will lose their jobs this year alone. Another 30,000 positions remain unfilled, and 2011 could produce the first national decline in law enforcement officer positions in the last 25 years.