- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2006

Police chiefs from across the country want Congress to restore funding for critical law-enforcement programs, saying the Bush administration has cut more than $1.1 billion from core programs vital to keeping communities nationwide safe.

“The administration slashed funding for tried and true programs that law-enforcement agencies count on to keep our communities safe,” said Mary Ann Viverette, police chief in Gaithersburg and president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). “We are hopeful that Congress will hear us and help us protect our hometowns and our homeland.”

More than 100 law-enforcement executives from across the country were in Washington last week urging Congress to restore the funding and noting that the current budget cuts bring levels to a 10-year low.

The IACP, the world’s oldest and largest organization of police executives, with more than 20,000 members in 89 countries, described the budget cuts as part of a “disturbing trend” by both the administration and Congress of significantly slashing funding for state and local enforcement programs but at the same time demanding they play a larger role in protecting the homeland.

Gene Zoegtlis, the IACP’s legislative counsel in Washington, said the chiefs are at the point that this “resource crunch has become critical.”

“They have accepted their responsibilities and continued to perform, but they can’t continue with a lack of resources,” Mr. Zoegtlis told The Washington Times. “As the funding decline continues, as it has over the last several years, we are at critical mass in terms of what we are being asked to do and what we can do.”

Law-enforcement agencies have been the victims of their own success, he said, noting that they have maintained lower crime rates and that there has not been another terrorist attack since September 11.

Based on a preliminary analysis of the proposed fiscal 2007 budget, Mr. Zoegtlis said, some of the most successful programs face elimination, including the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program at the Justice Department, and the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP) at the Department of Homeland Security.

Each of these programs, Mr. Zoegtlis said, has allowed state, local, tribal and university law-enforcement agencies to increase their abilities and improve their effectiveness.

The proposed budget:

• Cuts the COPS program by $376 million, a 78 percent reduction. The grant program was created in 1994 to advance community policing in jurisdictions of all sizes across the country.

• Eliminates the $416 million JAG program. The grants allow states and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crime and to improve the criminal justice system.

• Eliminates the $400 million LETPP program. The program provides grants to state and local law-enforcement agencies to help detect, deter, disrupt and prevent terrorism.

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