The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Keeping our nation safe from evolving terrorist threats requires strong partnerships at all levels. Nowhere are those partnerships more important than with our federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers who work on the frontlines every day to keep our cities and communities safe.
These courageous men and women, who put their lives on the line to protect others, must have the tools, training, and resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.
This week at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) General Assembly in Chicago, we each had an opportunity to reiterate our support for police officers and first responders across our country, many of whom are struggling to hire or retain personnel in the face of tough economic challenges.
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 the department’s 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.
There is great demand for existing federal fire fighter hiring funding. In FY10 alone there were $1.8 billion in applications for $420 million in SAFER funds.
Especially in these difficult economic times, the tough choices we are all facing should not come at the expense of public safety and national security. And, fortunately, they don’t have to. The American Jobs Act would provide $5 billion in assistance to states and local communities to create and save thousands of police and first responder jobs across the country. These funds would not only help to safeguard our national security and bolster public safety – they would strengthen our economy.
Passage of the American Jobs Act also would ensure that many of the critical partnerships we have established with local law enforcement can continue – and improve our ability to share information, to train frontline officers to recognize indicators of terrorism and crime, and to encouraging the public to be vigilant in reporting suspicious activity to appropriate authorities.
These steps provide a strong foundation for law enforcement at all levels to protect communities from terrorism and other threats. They also help us better understand the risks confronting the homeland while protecting the privacy rights and civil liberties of all Americans, and foster a strong relationship with the international community.
When it comes to advancing our public safety efforts, we simply can’t afford to wait. We must take action now to combat the economic conditions that have affected – and, in some communities, devastated – law enforcement agencies nationwide. We urge Congress to pass the American Jobs Act so that we can protect the men and women on the frontlines who protect us and contribute to our nation’s safety and security every day.