Remarks as prepared for delivery.
Mr. Vice President, Governor Rendell, Governor Corzine, Governor Markell, Governor O’Malley, Mayor Nutter, Commissioner Ramsey and Associate Attorney General Perrelli - thank you all for being here.
It’s great to be back in Philadelphia. When I came to this city last month, I joined Governor and First Lady Rendell, as well as Mayor Nutter, Commissioner Ramsey and others to kickoff President Obama’s United We Serve Initiative.
We were joined that day by a number of men, women, and young people who have answered the call to volunteerism. At a time when jobs are hard to come by and families are struggling to make ends meet, Americans from every background are still finding the time to give of themselves to those who are less fortunate.
Just as the American people are facing economic hardships, state and local governments are feeling the strain of balancing their budgets with diminishing tax revenues. 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.
In the same spirit of those who are answering the President’s call to service, we are here today to help those who serve our communities every single day.
Today we have the pleasure of announcing a series of grants made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies hire and retain police officers. We are awarding $1 billion in Recovery Act grants through the Community Oriented Policing Services – or COPS – Hiring Recovery Program.
Nationally, this grant program will allow 1,046 law enforcement agencies in all fifty states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Mariana Islands, to hire or re-hire 4,699 officers. That means that 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.
These grants provide 100 percent of each officer’s salary and benefits for three full years. On top of that, police departments receiving the grants are required to retain the officer positions for a fourth year. So, we’re talking about 4,699 police officers throughout the country who will have jobs keeping our communities safe for at least four years. That is an incredible accomplishment.
And these officers will go directly to the places they are needed most. These funds are focused on hiring officers who will be on the streets, in our neighborhoods, and on the front lines of our fight to keep the American people safe. And let us not forget: keeping brave and well-trained police officers employed is also good for our economy. These grants not only represent 4,699 men and women across our country fighting crime, but also 4,699 men and women who will be able to make house and car payments, make ends meet, and save for their children’s future.
Of course, with such an incredible program, it’s no surprise that the number of grant requests was overwhelming. We received applications from more than 7,000 cities and towns, and made funding decisions based on crime rate, financial need, and community policing activities. 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.
These COPS grants we are announcing today 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. Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for getting these much needed resources into communities through a program with a proven track record.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank the hardworking men and women in our COPS office. With so many applicants streaming in, we had originally estimated that we would be able to make these awards by the end of September. But at a meeting in June, the President called on the cabinet to get the funds out the door as quickly as possible, and I pledged that the Department would award these COPS grants by mid-summer. Luckily I had the support of the incredible professionals in the COPS office to make this possible. Thanks to their hard work, we’ve been able to move these funds into the hands of law enforcement sooner than originally expected.
Most importantly, however, I’d like to thank the brave men and women who sacrifice every day to keep our streets safe, and whose service we honor today with this much needed support. $1 billion is an incredible investment, but everyone standing on this stage knows we can never support you enough for your hard work and sacrifice.