STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - January 23, 2007)
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By Mr. BIDEN (for himself, Mr. Baucus, Mrs. Boxer, Ms. Cantwell, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Dodd, Mrs. Feinstein, Mr. Harkin, Mr. Kerry, Mr. Kohl, Mr. Lautenberg, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Menendez, Ms. Mikulski, Mr. Obama, Mr. Reed, Mr. Salazar, Mr. Schumer, Mr. Smith, Ms. Stabenow, and Mr. Reid):
S. 368. A bill to amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to enhance the cops on the beat grant program, and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, today, I rise to introduce legislation, the COPS Improvement Act of 2007, 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. The COPS 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.
Rather than support this important program, the Bush Administration and Republican leadership has been 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, the hiring program was completely eliminated in 2005. Overall funding for State and local law enforcement programs has been slashed by billions and the COPS hiring program has been completely eliminated. Last year's budget request contained only $117 million for local law enforcement from COPS and the complete elimination of the Justice Assistance Grant.
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 1ast few years. Other cities, such as Cleveland, MN, 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 we are beginning to pay the price. The FBI is reporting rising violent crime in cities throughout the Nation, with murder rates rising 3.4 percent in 2005. Additionally, the preliminary numbers for 2006 show that violent crime is up 3.7 percent and murder rates up 1.4 percent when compared to last year's preliminary numbers.
Although the COPS program was re-authorized as part of Department of Justice Reauthorization, this bill is critical for several reasons. First, it re-establishes our commitment to the hiring program by including a separate authorization of $600 million to hire officers to engage in community policing, intelligence gathering, and as school resource officers. We need more cops on the beat and in our schools, and this will help get us there. It also authorizes $350 million per year for technology grants, and it includes $200 million per year to help local district attorneys hire community prosecutors. Finally, it congressionally establishes the COPS office as the entity within the Department of Justice to carry out these functions in order to eliminate duplication of efforts. The bottom line is that this bill keeps 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 ask 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 text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
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