First, I want to commend the brave men and women who sacrifice every day to keep our streets safe, and whose service we honor today with much needed support. You put your lives on the line every day for the District and for all of those in the federal government who work in the nation’s Capitol. We are grateful for your commitment.
My name is Tom Perrelli and I serve as the Associate Attorney General, the third-ranking official in the Department of Justice. Among other things, I work with the White House on the Department’s implementation of the Recovery Act, and overseeing our tremendous Office of Community Oriented Policing Services – or COPS.
The COPS program is based on a simple recognition – there is almost nothing more effective in keeping the public safe than cops on the beat who have the equipment and resources they need. I stand here today to tell you that this administration, and this Attorney General, stand behind you 100 percent and are doing everything we can to find the resources to help you continue to do your job.
And I know that’s no small task today. Just as the American people are facing economic hardships, state and local governments are feeling the strain of balancing their budgets. In some cases, they are faced with the unacceptable, yet very real, prospect of laying off law enforcement personnel, because there’s simply not enough money in the budget.
That’s why I was so proud to join Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder last week in Philadelphia to announce $1 billion in COPS grants made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies hire and retain police officers.
Today, I stand here to celebrate the more than $12 million that has been awarded to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department to fund the hiring and rehiring of 50 law enforcement officers in the District. These funds will provide 100 percent of the approved salary and benefits for these officers for three years, and all police departments receiving the grants will then be required to retain the grant-funded positions for a fourth year.
Nationally, this means that 1,046 law enforcement agencies across the country can hire or re-hire 4,699 officers. Police departments can add new officers or re-hire officers who have been or are scheduled to be laid off as a result of local budget cuts.
And that is especially critical for this City. We know what you know – 15.7 percent of the families in the District are living in poverty. The unemployment rate jumped from 5.9 percent in 2008 to 9.2 percent in 2009. The city has lost $158 million in locally generated revenues since last year and 4 percent of its sworn law enforcement positions. Additionally, 13 percent of your civilian law enforcement positions have remained unfilled because of hiring freezes.
These are the burdens we are trying to alleviate with the Recovery Act grants. These grants help fulfill President Obama and Vice President Biden’s commitment to meet the challenges of our struggling economy with solutions that will keep our country safe and keep us moving forward.
This funding will go where we need it most – to support officers who will go directly to the places they are needed most. But this funding is about more than just saving jobs. Putting one officer on the street is not about creating one job, and putting 4,699 officers on the streets does not just create or save 4,699 jobs. You and I know that putting another officer on the street means a lot more. One officer on the street means that a neighborhood is safer. It means that a store owner feels a little bit more comfortable opening up a new shop, or maybe stay open a little later. It means that the folks who work at that shop don’t feel so nervous on their way home, and they might even stop for a little extra shopping on their way home, or stop for a little evening out. It means that people are willing to make the investment in their community and rent an apartment or buy a home, because it feels like the kind of place that they want to live. This is about making our cities, suburbs and towns feel like the kinds of places where people can build a family, a business and a life. That feeling in many ways starts with you and it’s a critical building block for reviving our economy.
You have a lot to be proud of. The Justice Department received over 7,200 applications for more than 39,000 officer positions, representing a total of $8.3 billion in requested funding. The District received funding for 50 officers – the maximum amount awarded. The thousands of applications that poured in are indicative of both the tough times our states, cities and tribes are facing and the unyielding commitment by law enforcement to making our communities safer. I’m proud to be a part of an administration that backs up the commitment of our law enforcement community not just with words, but with the resources our partners need.
$1 billion is an incredible investment. And that is just part of the $4 billion that the Recovery Act provides, through the Department of Justice, in funding to enhance state, local, and tribal law enforcement efforts, including the hiring of new police officers, to combat violence against women, and to fight internet crimes against children.
But everyone standing here knows we can never support you enough for your hard work and sacrifice. What I can do is to pledge my commitment – and the commitment of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General – to continue working to find you the resources you need to do your job.
Thank you again for everything that you do, and congratulations on this much needed funding.