The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder.
Across the country, law enforcement agencies and police departments of all sizes are struggling to confront once-in-a-century financial constraints. In the face of growing demands and increasingly limited resources, many law enforcement executives have been forced to make difficult – and often painful – budgetary decisions, while responding to a host of new and evolving threats.
I’m proud to say that our nation’s law enforcement community has responded to these challenges not with frustration, but with resolve. Yet, in spite of their best efforts – and the strongest support this Administration can provide – there’s no denying that recent economic conditions have created significant obstacles to fulfilling critical public safety goals.
As part of ongoing work to better understand and overcome current fiscal challenges, this week, the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office released a new report on how the economic downturn has impacted police departments nationwide. According to our research, we expect that, by the end of this year, nearly 12,000 police officers and sheriff’s deputies will have been laid off. Already, law enforcement agencies nationwide currently have nearly 30,000 unfilled vacancies. And an estimated 28,000 more officers and deputies experienced week-long furloughs last year.
In 25 years of collecting data, this is the first national decrease in law enforcement positions ever recorded. But – at every level of the Justice Department, and across the Obama Administration – we are committed to reversing this alarming and unacceptable trend.
That’s why – block by block, city by city, department by department – we are working to help our partners make the most of limited resources, and to get law enforcement officers back to work.
Last month, with this goal in mind, the COPS office announced more than $240 million in new grants to support the hiring and retention of more than 1,000 officers in 238 agencies and municipalities across the country. These critical funds will help promote not only employment, but public safety – and they’ll also provide support for innovative and cost-effective 21st century policing strategies.
But, while we are excited about what our law enforcement partners will be able to accomplish with these investments, we are far from satisfied. And we cannot – and will not – forget about the additional 2,300 worthy grant applications – totaling more than $2 billion – that had to be declined because adequate resources were not available to fill them.
Fortunately, President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act would provide significant help in addressing this crisis. The bill includes $4 billion in funding for law enforcement hiring through the COPS office. These funds would not only help to safeguard our national security and bolster public safety – they would strengthen our economy by creating or saving essential jobs for first responders.
Yet the Senate has responded to these urgent needs with a proposal for only $200 million in support for such initiatives – and the House of Representatives has zeroed out this allocation altogether.
This gap is not only drastic – it’s dangerous. In taking action to combat the conditions that have devastated law enforcement agencies nationwide, we simply can’t afford to wait.
Tomorrow’s progress depends upon the commitments – and investments – we make today. Providing the resources necessary to get our first responders back on our streets – and to give them the tools they need to keep our neighborhoods safe – will not only strengthen our law enforcement community, but also help to ensure a brighter, and safer, future for our nation.
Find out more by reading the full report.