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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

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Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - April 28, 2005)

BREAK IN TRNASCRIPT

By Mr. BIDEN (for himself, Mr. KOHL, Mr. BINGAMAN, Mrs. CLINTON, Ms. STABENOW, Mr. KERRY, Mr. LEAHY, Mr. LEVIN, Mr. DURBIN, Mr. LIEBERMAN, Mr. KENNEDY, Mr. NELSON of Nebraska, Ms. MIKULSKI, Mr. BAYH, Ms. CANTWELL, Mrs. FEINSTEIN, Mr. CORZINE, Mr. JEFFORDS, Mr. ROCKEFELLER, Mr. SMITH, Mr. DAYTON, Mr. AKAKA, Mr. REED, Mr. HARKIN, Mrs. BOXER, Ms. LANDRIEU, Mr. REID, Mr. SALAZAR, Mr. BAUCUS, Mr. DORGAN, Mr. NELSON of Florida, Mr. SCHUMER, Mr. DODD, Mr. SPECTER, Mr. BYRD, Mr. LAUTENBERG, and Mr. OBAMA):

S. 945. A bill to provide reliable officers, technology, education, community prosecutors, and raining in our neighborhoods; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, today, I rise to introduce legislation to reauthorize the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). This program has achieved what my colleagues and I hoped for back when we were debating the 1994 Crime Bill. Prior to the final vote, in August of 1994, I stated that ``I will vote for this bill, because, as much as anything I have ever voted on in 22 years in the U.S. Senate, I truly believe that passage of this legislation will make a difference in the lives of the American people. I believe with every fiber in my being that if this bill passes, fewer people will be murdered, fewer people will be victims, fewer women will be senselessly beaten, fewer people will continue on the drug path, and fewer children will become criminals.''

Fortunately, with the creation of the COPS program, we were able to form a partnership amongst Federal, State, and local law enforcement and create programs that helped drive down crime rates for eight consecutive years. In 1994 we had historically high rates of violent crimes, such as murders, forcible rapes, and aggravated assaults. We were able to reduce these to the lowest levels in a generation. We reduced the murder rate by 37.8 percent; we reduced forcible rapes by 19.1 percent; and we reduced aggravated assaults by 25.5 percent. Property crimes, including auto thefts also were reduced from historical highs to the lowest levels in decades.

How were we able to achieve such great results? Well, we all know it was a combination of factors, but most law enforcement officials credit the Office of Community Oriented Policing with a pivotal role. Indeed, in the words of Attorney General Ashcroft the Community Oriented Policing program (``COPS'') has been ``a miraculous success.'' Just a few months ago, Attorney General Gonzalez reached the same conclusion, stating that ``we put additional officers on the street and now we have crime at an all-time low.'' In addition, this program has been endorsed by every major law enforcement group in the Nation, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), the International Brotherhood of Police Organizations, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officials (NOBLE), the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA), the Fraternal Order of Police, and others. The bottom line is that from the Top Cop in the United States to the beat officer patrolling a local community, the impact of this program is clear.

Rather than support this program, the Bush Administration and Republican leadership is set on eliminating it. President Bush has proposed cuts each year he has been in office, and while we have fought to maintain funding for COPS, we are fighting an uphill battle. Funding for State and local law enforcement programs run out of the Department of Justice is down 75.6 percent since fiscal year 2002. This year, funding for State and local law enforcement is at $118 million for the entire Nation, with no funding for hiring.

These cuts are coming at the worst possible time. Local law enforcement is facing what I have called a perfect storm. The FBI is reprogramming its field agents from local crime to terrorism. Undoubtedly, this is necessary given the threats facing our
Nation. But, this means that there will be less Federal assistance for drug cases, bank robberies, and violent crime. Local law enforcement will be required to fill the gap left by the FBI in addition to performing more and more homeland security duties. Due to budget restraints at the local level and the unprecedented cuts in Federal assistance they will be less able to do either. Articles in the USA Today and the New York Times highlighted the fact that many cities are being forced to eliminate officers because of local budgets woes. In fact, New York City has lost over 3,000 officers in the last few years. Other cities, such as Cleveland, Minnesota, and Houston, TX, are facing similar shortages. As a result, local police chiefs are reluctantly pulling officers from the proactive policing activities that were so successful in the nineties, and they are unable to provide sufficient numbers of officers for Federal task forces. These choices are not made lightly. Police chiefs understand the value of proactive policing and the need to be involved in homeland security task forces; however, they simply don't have the manpower to do it all. Responding to emergency calls must take precedence over proactive programs and task forces, and I fear that we will see the impact in our national crime rates soon. Local chiefs and sheriffs are reporting increased gang activity. And, murder rates and auto thefts--two very accurate indicators of crime trends--have gone up for three consecutive years.

To me, cutting assistance for State and local law enforcement is inexplicable, particularly because the need for Federal assistance remains so pressing. In fact, last month I offered an amendment to restore funding for the COPS program in the sum of $1 billion. This amount would have provided enough funding to eliminate the backlog of pending officer requests of 10,000 from 3,700 jurisdictions throughout the Nation. And, it would have provided funding to support on-going needs this year. Unfortunately, this amendment was voted down on a party-line vote. The Bush Administration's response to these criticisms about its budget is that funding for the Department of Homeland Security is up. Undoubtedly, these are critical, necessary expenditures, and I believe that the Administration has not invested enough for homeland security. We have an obligation to do both. We must fund homeland security and invest in the programs that help reduce traditional crime and prevent terrorism. As terrorism and security experts have pointed out, funding additional officers through the COPS program can help do both.

The legislation that I am introducing today provides $1.5 billion per year for six years for the COPS program. This includes $600 million per year for officer hiring grants, $350 million per year for technology grants, and $200 million per year to help local district attorneys hire community prosecutors. This funding will help keep faith with our State and local law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe from crime and terrorism. I would ask all of my colleagues to go to their local police chief or sheriff and ask them if they should support this legislation, and I hope that they will, because if they did, it would be passed 100-0.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of this legislation be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

http://thomas.loc.gov/

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