Dear Madam and Mr. Chairman, Senator Moran, and Representative Cartwright,
I am writing on behalf of the members of the Fraternal Order of Police to thank you for your consistent support for the Edward R. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program, the law enforcement hiring program administered by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and for your consistent support for the men and women in law enforcement. The FOP respectfully requests funding for Byrne JAG and the COPS program for Fiscal Year 2024 that meets or exceeds the Administration’s budget request.
At a time when our communities are experiencing a national spike in violent crime, members of both parties agree that State and local law enforcement agencies need more resources to make these communities safe again. As President Biden said in his State of the Union address, “give law enforcement the training they need, hold them to higher standards, and help them succeed in keeping everyone safe.”
The Byrne JAG and COPS programs, the COPS hiring program in particular, are the keystones of our national community-oriented policing strategy. These programs ensure that State and local law enforcement agencies have the necessary tools, training, and staffing to adequately serve their communities. These programs are critical, especially to smaller agencies that may lack the resources needed to be effective in their communities. These programs have improved the ways that law enforcement officers protect their streets and neighborhoods while promoting and improving the relationship between officers and the people they serve.
The Byrne JAG program continues to be critical to the success of protecting public safety and is one of the most important tools that law enforcement agencies can use to spur innovation and become more responsive to the communities they serve. The funds from the program provide agencies with the resources to implement insightful approaches to dangerous situations, improved tools and technologies, crime prevention and educational programs, mental health and substance abuse treatments, and improved cooperation between agencies to target regional-based trafficking organizations.
The work of the COPS Office is vital to State and local law enforcement agencies and, by extension, the safety of our communities. The hiring program, its work on collaborative reform, and efforts to improve officer safety and wellness are critical. In addition to providing funding to hire additional officers, the program helps improve local policing strategies and training. This program also provides critical resources to support building trust and respect between law enforcement agencies and the people they serve. Since 1994, the COPS Office has allocated more than $14 billion to local departments to help advance community policing.
Lastly, in December 2022, Congress passed and President Biden signed S. 4003, the “Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act,” which would provide $70 million in annual grant funding from the Byrne JAG to State and local law enforcement agencies to train officers in de-escalation tactics and alternatives to the use of force. In addition, the COPS Office, through consultation with State and local law enforcement agencies, would be required to develop a curriculum of relevant training topics, including de-escalation tactics, use of force alternatives, establishing and maintaining crisis intervention teams, as well as how to safely respond to mental and behavioral health crises using public benefits programs, housing assistance programs, and other relevant services.
On behalf of the more than 364,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, I thank you for considering our request to increase funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) Program and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program to a level that meets or exceeds the Administration’s budget for FY24. If I can provide any additional information about this bill, please do not hesitate to contact me or Executive Director Jim Pasco in our Washington, D.C. office.