- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

More than 70 of the nation’s police chiefs, concerned over proposed reductions in the Bush administration’s 2005 budget they say will seriously hurt state and local law enforcement, called on Congress yesterday to restore $1.57 billion in proposed cuts.

Led by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the law enforcement officials — who described the proposed budget reductions in a report this week as “unacceptable and intolerable” — spent the day on Capitol Hill asking for help.

“Targeting law enforcement assistance programs for reductions of this magnitude has the potential to significantly weaken the ability of state and local law enforcement agencies to protect our communities from both traditional acts of crime and the new specter of terrorism,” said IACP President Joseph M. Polisar, chief of police in Garden Grove, Calif.

“This is unacceptable,” he said, noting that if the Bush budget is enacted as submitted, law enforcement assistance funding will decline for the first time since the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Chief Polisar said combined funding proposals for law enforcement assistance programs at the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security is proposed at $3.25 billion, a reduction of $1.57 billion, or 31.9 percent, from 2004.

The major programs facing cuts under the pending Omnibus Appropriations legislation are the Community Oriented Policing Services program, also known as COPS, and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program, which assists state and local police with grants for law enforcement programs.

In a letter in January to Senate members, Chief Polisar said the nation’s cities and towns could not afford to reduce the effectiveness of their local law enforcement agencies by cutting vital federal assistance programs “at this crucial time in our history.”

“Over the last decade, these programs have strengthened the core capabilities of law-enforcement agencies and greatly improved their crime-fighting efforts,” the chief wrote. “Without the funds provided by these programs, many law enforcement agencies would be unable to maintain their current level of effectiveness.”

Under the provisions of the omnibus legislation, funding levels for the two programs would be reduced significantly. The COPS program was funded at $977 million in fiscal 2003 and is proposed to get $756 million this year, while the block-grant program drops from $400 million to $225 million.

The Bush administration has sought to reduce funding for traditional law enforcement programs such as COPS and the block-grant program, which go directly to cities and counties, in favor of increased funding for Homeland Security, which is allocated through the states.

Both houses of Congress are debating their own budget proposals.

The IACP, founded in 1893, is the world’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization of law enforcement executives with more than 19,000 members in 100 countries. It outlined its concerns at a news conference at the Cannon House Office Building.

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