Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey called on Congress to fully fund federal programs that aid local law enforcement this year.
Programs like the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) Program and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership grant have all helped Philadelphia police officers combat violence, but many of these programs could be on the chopping block this year.
With homicide rates across the city increasing in 2012, Casey, Williams and Ramsey said that full funding for these programs is needed now more than ever. Senator Casey also released a letter to U.S. Senate leadership, calling on Congress to make funding these programs an immediate priority.
"Our brave Philadelphia police officers are doing all they can to combat crime, but they need more resources. Congress needs to step up and fund these life-saving programs," Casey said. "Fully funding these law enforcement programs will put more cops on the beat and ensure that our officers have the equipment they need to stay safe."
The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program is responsible for advancing the practice of community policing in the nation's state, local, territory, and tribal law enforcement agencies. COPS puts more cops on the beat and has specifically aided Philadelphia. Since the program's inception in 1993, COPS grants have helped the city hire or rehire 903 police officers with $75 million in funding.
The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) Program can be used for a variety of efforts such as hiring law enforcement officers; supporting drug and gang task forces; funding crime prevention and domestic violence programs; and supporting courts, corrections, treatment, and justice information sharing initiatives. In 2011, Philadelphia received $2.4 million from the JAG program.
Created in 1998, the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program is administered through the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs. Jurisdictions apply for the funding, which is administered as a federal matching grant covering 50% of the cost of bullet proof vests. In 2011, Philadelphia received funding for the purchase of 2,025 bulletproof vests made possible by a $109,000 grant.
The full text of Casey's letter to U.S. Senate leadership urging full funding for these programs can be seen below:
Dear Senators Reid and McConnell:
As the Senate prepares its appropriations bills for the 2013 fiscal year, I write to urge you to support full funding of programs vitally important to public safety in Pennsylvania and across the United States, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) Program, and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program. I am particularly concerned that proposals in the House of Representatives' budget to reduce funding for these efforts is misguided and risks undermining years of success in reducing crime and protecting local law enforcement.
The COPS Hiring Program has proven to be an effective tool in providing state and local law enforcement with resources and equipment necessary to both fight and prevent crime. Since its inception, the COPS program has hired, rehired, or retained more than 120,000 community police officers, including 3,651 in my home state of Pennsylvania. Local chiefs of police, sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders agree that the COPS Hiring Program has played an essential role in crime reduction.
While the COPS Hiring Program has helped law enforcement agencies maintain strong forces in the face of strained budgets, the Byrne/JAG Program spurs innovation and efficiency across the criminal justice system. Byrne/JAG funds are used to test and measure innovative methods to reduce crime, combat drug and gang violence, reduce recidivism, and implement drug treatment, technology and witness programs. Importantly, this funding is also flexible and can be used in a wide variety of capacities to address local needs for equipment and resources.
These programs are critical to officer safety. New FBI data released this week revealed a 25 percent increase in police officers killed by perpetrators in 2011, a disturbing trend that further illustrates the urgency in protecting programs like the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program. These grants allow local communities to purchase life-saving bullet-proof vests and provided the City of Philadelphia alone with funding for 2,025 bulletproof vests in 2011. Administered through the Office of Justice Programs, local jurisdictions apply for the funding, which is administered as a federal matching grant covering 50 percent of the cost of the vests.
I urge you to reject proposals to cut critically needed programs to keep our neighborhoods safe and support full funding of the President's budget request for the COPS Hiring Program, Byrne/JAG and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program. Thank you for your consideration.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator