Washington, D.C.– To help relieve the strain of tight local budgets on New York’s law enforcement agencies, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is co-sponsoring the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Improvements Act, legislation to strengthen resources for local law enforcement, giving them more of the tools they need to protect local communities and keep New Yorkers safe.
“Law enforcement agencies across New York have been squeezed by budget cuts, forced to lay off critical personnel, and reduce key crime prevention programs,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This legislation will keep cops on the beat, improve technology to keep our streets safe and our neighborhoods secure. Protecting our families and communities is the highest priority of our law enforcement professionals, and protecting jobs for New York is my highest priority.”
The COPS Improvements Act, authored by Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), would strengthen Congress’s commitment to local law enforcement by establishing the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services as a distinct office within the Department of Justice, reauthorizing and increasing COPS funding for local law enforcement agencies. In FY2010, New York State received over $10.5 million in COPS grants.
Specifically, the legislation would authorize federal grants to: (1) hire school resource officers and establish local partnerships to combat crime, gangs, drug activities, and other problems in elementary and secondary schools; (2) establish and implement innovative programs to reduce and prevent illegal drug manufacturing, distribution, and use; (3) meet emerging law enforcement needs; (4) hire former members of the Armed Forces to serve as career law enforcement officers for deployment in community-oriented policing; (5) pay for additional community prosecuting programs to handle cases from specific geographic areas and to address counter-terrorism problems and violent crime in local communities; and (6) develop new technologies to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in crime prevention and training.
The legislation would authorize $900 million per year for the next six years for:
· Police Hiring Grants– The legislation authorizes $500 million per year – enough to hire up to 50,000 officers for general community policing.
· Law Enforcement Technology Grants– $250 million per year for police departments to acquire new technology and equipment for uses such as analyzing real-time crime-data and incident reports to anticipate trends in crime, mapping crime “hot spots”, examining DNA evidence, or purchasing cameras for squad cars to keep records of police encounters.
· Community Prosecutor Grants– $150 million per year to help local district attorneys hire community prosecutors that are trained to work in neighborhoods to prevent crime, build relationships in the community, and use the authority of the prosecutor’s office to improve the quality of life in the area.
Created in the 1994 Crime Bill, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has funded more than 120,000 community police officers in over 12,900 law enforcement agencies. The COPS program has been credited by many criminologists as an important factor in driving down crime, and it directly creates jobs and helps local governments weather the economic downturn. The COPS Office was reauthorized as part of the Department of Justice reauthorization in the 109thCongress, yet funding for the COPS program has been decimated in recent years.