Thank you, Barney – and good afternoon, every one. Today I’m pleased to be here in Philadelphia, and proud to join with so many critical partners – including Mayor Nutter, Commissioner Ramsey, Congressman Fattah, and Senator Casey – as we announce the recipients of the Fiscal Year 2012 COPS Hiring Program grant awards.
These critical investments represent the Justice Department’s latest effort to support – and help strengthen – our nation’s law enforcement community. And they reflect our understanding that – in this time of growing demands and limited budgets – the work of police departments nationwide has never been more important, or more difficult.
That’s why today’s Department of Justice – and the entire Obama Administration – are committed to making sure that our law enforcement partners have the tool, resources, and capabilities that they need – and deserve. As part of this commitment, I am pleased to announce that more than 220 cities and counties, including the City of Philadelphia, will receive grant awards totaling over $111 million from the Department of Justice through the 2012 COPS Hiring Program. These grants will save or create jobs for approximately 800 law enforcement officers in cities and counties from Cumberland, Maine, to New Orleans, Louisiana, to Chicago, Illinois; from Tacoma, Washington, to Toledo, Ohio, to Summersville, West Virginia.
In total, nearly 200 law enforcement officers will be saved from lay-offs. And more than 600 new law enforcement officers will be hired. Importantly, this year, each of these new hires will be military veterans who have served at least 180 days in our armed forces since September 11, 2001.
This means that – thanks to the 2012 COPS Hiring Program and this Administration’s commitment to providing our veterans with meaningful employment opportunities – more than 600 women and men who have courageously defended our liberty abroad will have the opportunity to continue serving our country here at home – as local and state law enforcement officers.
It is especially fitting to speak of liberty here in Philadelphia, which – to help build on this city’s model community policing efforts – will be receiving more than $3 million to hire 25 military veterans to serve as law enforcement officers. I’m also pleased to report that an additional $5.2 million will be awarded to your neighbors in Pittsburgh, Chester, and Aliquippa – and across the river in Trenton.
These awards are coming at a critical time. Last year, thousands of officers were laid off – and, due to budget shortfalls, thousands of positions could not be filled. In total, 85 percent of all law enforcement agencies reported cuts. However, despite these difficult circumstances, hard-working public servants – like those here in Philadelphia – have found ways to accomplish more with less; to stretch every precious taxpayer dollar; to make meaningful, measurable progress in improving public safety; and to prove the power of community policing methods. With this year’s COPS grant, this work will be expanded and strengthened. And, as a result, a range of priority efforts – especially those aimed at protecting our children and young people from violence and other threats – will be taken to a new level.
This year’s incorporation of military veteran is an especially exciting – and promising – step forward. Communities nationwide will benefit from the experience and expertise that these veterans will bring to their new roles in law enforcement. And those who courageously serve our country overseas will know that their fellow citizens – and leaders across this Administration – are committed to taking care of them when they return home.
We look forward to welcoming these new additions to our nation’s law enforcement community – and to building on the partnerships, and record of success, that we’ve established here in Philadelphia and beyond.
Again, I want to thank Mayor Nutter for his hospitality. We look forward to continuing to work with you and Commissioner Ramsey – and with your colleagues and counterparts across the country – to strengthen our communities and support those who keep us safe.