- The Washington Times
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A bipartisan coalition of representatives announced Tuesday they’re fighting to keep full funding for a federal grant that pays local police and sheriff’s departments to hire more officers.

Led by New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell Jr. and Dave Reichert, a Washington Republican, co-chairs of the House Law Enforcement Caucus, the 175 lawmakers who signed onto a March 14 letter range from the most conservative to the most liberal members of the House.

They said they wanted to see “sufficient” funding in the 2019 spending bills for both the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) programs, both of which siphon money to states and localities.

“These programs are critical to ensuring that state and local law enforcement have the tools, programs, personnel and resources necessary to protect and serve their communities,” the members wrote, stressing gun violence and the opioid epidemic.

Both the COPS and JAG programs have strengthened bonds between police officers and communities, while also funding programs local and state law enforcement set in motion against specific crimes, according to the elected officials.

President Trump called for a nearly 50 percent cut to COPS grants in his proposed 2019 budget, saying the program had become duplicative and questioning its effectiveness.

But for many lawmakers, sending federal taxpayer money back home to put more police on community beats is an easy call.

“This is a bipartisan program with broad bipartisan support. These attempts to defund COPS are shortsighted and would do irreparable harm to community policing efforts that keep our families safe,” Mr. Pascrell said in a statement to The Washington Times.

Last month Mr. Reichert and Mr. Pascrell led 133 representatives in sending the administration a letter cautioning against major changes to the COPS program. They said the office should retain its independence and not be folded into another Justice Department office.

Last week, though, the House voted 407-10 to approve the Stop School Violence Act of 2018. That bill moves COPS funding out of its own office and into the Office of Justice Programs, a move administration officials and some experts say will trim redundancies and save money.

While Mr. Trump envisions COPS funding cuts next year, he asked for $402 million for the JAG program — about equal to what was in the last appropriations bill passed by Congress for 2017. Funding for 2018 has yet to be approved.

“The Byrne JAG and COPS programs are the cornerstone of our federal justice assistance programs,” the representatives wrote in the March letter. “Support for the Byrne JAG and COPS Hiring programs is imperative to the safety of our communities.”

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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