U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in York City to champion funding for police
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey visited York City Police Department Friday, Sept. 8 to discuss pending federal law enforcement funding cuts. Jana Benscoter
Pending federal funding cuts to law enforcement grant programs would impede York City's ability to staff its police department — and jeopardize the roll out of the department's community training strategy, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Friday, during a visit to York City Police Department.
The Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring program awarded York City an estimated $1 million to hire five officers in 2015. York has also, according to Pennsylvania Democrat Casey, received $270,179 in direct federal grants through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program over the past five years.
House Republicans have suggested eliminating funding for the COPS hiring program, according to Casey, who joined York City Mayor Kim Bracey and Police Chief Wes Kahley for a news conference at the city's police department Friday, Sept. 8.
Local funding: Casey said the federal government can provide up to 75 percent of the cost to hire a police officer over three years under the COPS grant. A local funding match is required to receive federal funds, which is usually around 25 percent of funding, he said.
In addition to hiring and re-hiring police officers, COPS grants were created to preserve jobs, increase community policing capabilities and support crime prevention efforts.
Kahley said, over the last two years, department staffing has decreased.
"The city has to come up with that funding," Kahley said. "We're all strapped and trying to figure out a way to handle our day-to-day business. If we're not doing our job, and keep doing our job to make the city safe, people are not going to visit the city."
COPS program: Casey said Pennsylvanians have "benefited tremendously" from COPS grants.
"What we don't want to have happen is that program be either underfunded or cut or eliminated," he said.
Even if part the COPS program's money was shifted into the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program pot, otherwise known as JAG, Casey said, it would be a substantial cut to the hiring program. He added that, despite the possible line-item merger, the JAG program also stands to be gutted as the U.S. Dept. of Justice is facing deep cuts.
The JAG program focuses on successful approaches that reduce crime and positively impact communities, according to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program website.
"Now, if Republicans in the House have a rationale for that, a law enforcement rationale, and they can show me a study or (offer) a persuasive argument that says it's a good idea, I'd certainly be willing to listen," Casey said. "But, of course, they haven't done that. They've just proposed it in the appropriation process."
He later added that he thought President Barack Obama's administration also underfunded the COPS program. COPS was initially intended to allocate up to $1 billion.
Casey said he'd like to see funding increase to closer to the intended level.
Financial stewardship: Federal grant funding is watched closely, Kahley said. His department has to submit a budget quarterly depending on the grant, and use the funds for specific reasons, such as technological advancements, and paying for support upkeep of software and hardware.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Justice's website, COPS hiring program requires new officers to go through training on how to manage violent crime, homeland security issues, and illegal immigration.
The city's current allocation, Kahley said, runs out in 2018.