WASHINGTON – Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski pressed President Bush Tuesday to restore $1.5 billion in funding for crime prevention programs to his fiscal 2008 budget, bolstered by local officials in Howard and Frederick counties.
Mikulski, D-Md., said a bill developed by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science would reverse “draconian” cuts Bush made to national programs battling gangs, drugs, domestic violence and crimes against children. It provides for $2.7 million in police funding, $1.6 million more than what Bush requested.
“With violent crime on the rise for the first time in 15 years, President Bush cut state and local enforcement funding,” Mikulski said. “The time to act is now.”
At a news conference, Mikulski introduced Dave Martin, special operations commander of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department, and Scott Pfeifer, principal of Centennial High School in Ellicott City.
Pfeifer, a principal for 20 years and member of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program funded school resource officers who found a gun in a Howard County high school locker last year.
“How was it found? Because students heard about it, and shared it with the SRO,” Pfeifer said. “They (students) don’t do that when they don’t have someone they trust in the building they can go to.”
Likewise, Martin said the COPS funding was invaluable to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department because it allowed it to hire deputies it couldn’t otherwise afford. The county hired 34 deputies in the last 10 years with COPS funding, but transferred several school resource officers it hired last year to other duties when the funding was eliminated, he said.
“No one is in danger of losing their jobs this year, but without the grants, we’re limited to whatever is approved with the regular county budget,” Martin said. As things stand, four new positions will be added in Frederick County.
The stories show the importance of restoring the funding, Mikulski said, even when it doesn’t apply to cities like Washington and Baltimore.
“If (crime) is happening in Frederick County, it’s happening in every rural county in America,” Mikulski said. “And if it’s happening in Ellicott City and Howard County, it’s also happening in the suburbs all over America.”
The news conference came as Mikulski and other Democrats in the Senate prepare for a showdown on Capitol Hill this week on the bill, which Bush has threatened to veto.
Mikulski was joined by fellow Senate Democrats Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, both of whom called for the president to restore community policing funding.
Whitehouse, a former U.S. attorney and Rhode Island attorney general, said the funding cuts show Bush’s priorities are in the wrong place considering the billions of dollars that have been spent in Iraq.
“I don’t get it,” Whitehouse said. “Hometown security matters, too.”
Menendez cited a report by the Government Accountability Office that for every dollar spent in COPS funding, 30 crimes were prevented.
“The administration may not believe in that math, but this Democratic-led Congress does,” Menendez said. “We say to ourselves, ‘How can we not protect our streets when we’re spending so much abroad?'”