I bring you the greetings of Attorney General Eric Holder and I am excited to represent him here today to announce the Fiscal Year 2010 COPS Hiring Program grant awards. Before we get too much further into the program, I’d like to take a minute to recognize several officials. Thank you everyone for joining us.
Mayor Parker, I appreciate you letting us have a few minutes at city hall to make this important announcement. Your hard work in the city of Houston hasn’t gone unnoticed. And that’s why we are here today—to recognize the work of your police department and help them do even more to protect the people who live and work in this thriving city. Chief McClelland, I want to thank you, your officers, and the civilian personnel of the Houston Police Department who work tirelessly every day, often in harm’s way, to keep the peace, reduce fear, and provide for a safe environment.
Today we are here talking about community policing – that’s a term that is used a lot and captures much of what the Houston Police Department has done for decades, but is not often explained. It’s an approach to policing that focuses on problem-solving and partnering with the community to address all aspects of crime. And the Department of Justice’s COPS program is dedicated to advancing community policing and 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% and are doing everything we can to find the resources to help you continue to do your job.
And I know that’s now small task today. Just as the American people are facing economic hardships, state and local governments are feeling the strain of balancing their budgets. Today, I’m proud to announce that Houston is getting some help to carry out that mission.
Through the Department of Justice COPS Office, the city of Houston is receiving $9.8 million to add 50 officers to your numbers. That’s 50 more cops on the beat to keep this community safe. Under this grant, Houston will receive 100 percent of the approved salary and benefits for these officers for three years, and will then be required to retain the grant-funded positions for a fourth year.
The newly hired officers, funded by COPS, will work on many important programs and initiatives. I would like to highlight the Mayor's commitment to a citywide public safety campaign that is building a collaborative partnership between citizens, businesses and the Houston Police. And that is what community policing is all about. When law enforcement and communities work together, we can take back our streets and make communities safer.
The impact of the COPS program and the approximately 121,000 officers it has put on the street cannot be overstated. You and I know what putting another officer on the street means. 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 staying open 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 some shopping on their way home, or stop for an 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.
The Attorney General and the Department of Justice pledge to support you in every way that we can, and we are happy that we can show that support here in Houston and elsewhere with much-needed resources. Today, the COPS office will award nearly $300 million in funding to hire or rehire almost 1,400 officers nation-wide to keep the streets of America safe. That’s more officers advancing public safety through community policing, more cops walking neighborhood streets, more uniforms visible in the community.
We recognize that this only begins to meet the need that is out there: The Justice Department received over 4,500 applications and we were only able to meet the need of 379 agencies across the country. Houston received funding for 50 officers – the maximum amount awarded. Everyone standing here knows that we can never support our law enforcement officers enough for your hard work and sacrifice. We know there is more to be done, but today we are making the thin blue line a little thicker.
The Attorney General and I and the entire Department of Justice pledge to continue working to find you the resources you need to do your job.
I would like to thank the Mayor and the chief again , and congratulations Houston on this much needed funding.