05.06.15

With Republican Budget Slashing Funding for Local Law Enforcement, Baldwin Urges Full Funding for Vital Byrne Justice Assistance Grant

Republican Budget Agreement Could Reduce Funding for Critical Police Department Grant Program by $24 Million 

The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program Has Helped More than 600 Police Departments Nationwide Utilize Police Camera Technology 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With a Republican budget agreement that could cut funding by $24 million for a critical grant program that helps police departments utilize body cameras and other innovative technology, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and a group of 16 senators in calling for full funding of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) program. Yesterday, the Senate adopted the Republican’s non-binding budget blueprint, which has already passed the House of Representatives, by a vote of 51-48. This proposal will now serve as an outline for Congressional spending priorities in the coming year.

“The Republican budget agreement passed this week in the Senate not only leaves middle class Wisconsin families out in the cold, it turns its back on police departments across our nation and the citizens that they protect,” Senator Baldwin said. “Trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve is necessary not only for the safety and strength of our communities, but also for the integrity of our criminal justice system. The dramatic cuts to federal law enforcement funding in the Republican budget are out of step with the many needs of community policing efforts on the ground across America”

In 2012 and 2013, more than 600 JAG recipients nationwide have used federal funding for in-car and on-person, police camera technology. [1] According to the Department of Justice, “body-worn camera technology is a valuable tool for improving police-citizen relationships.”[2]  In some instances, body worn cameras have been found to reduce the use of force by officers by as much as 60 percent, reduce citizen complaints by as much as 88 percent, assist in resolving complaints against the police, and reduce the likelihood of false complaints against the police.[3]

In their letter to Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, the senators also requested full funding for the President’s proposal for a three-year, $263 million investment in body-worn cameras, expanded law enforcement training, and additional resources for police department reform.

In Fiscal Year 2014, the Wisconsin Department of Justice Received $2.95 million in Byrne-JAG awards to fund multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement task forces; community-based treatment and court programs; diversion programs; technology improvement programs for local law enforcement; state justice systems improvement programs; the Wisconsin Statistical Analysis Center UCR/IBR program; and funding to allow for response to criminal justice needs and emergencies.

This funding is awarded to states that then subsequently make awards to local jurisdictions. The following Wisconsin jurisdictions received funding through the grant program:  

Milwaukee County - $883,907

City of Madison Police Department - $108,034

City of Green Bay - $54,037

City of Racine - $44, 116

Rock County - $38, 383

City of Kenosha - $33,463

City of Appleton - $25,941

City of Oshkosh - $23,420

La Crosse Police Department - $19,395

City of Fond du Lac - $18,744

Sheboygan County - $16, 467

City of Eau Claire - $15, 776

Marathon County Sherriff’s Department - $14,028

City of Waukesha - $11,873

Polk County Sherriff’s Office - $10,775

In addition to Senators Baldwin and Brown, the letter was signed by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

A copy of the letter can be found below: 

May 5, 2015

The Honorable Thad Cochran

Chairman

Senate Committee on Appropriations

Room S 128, The Capitol

Washington, DC 20510 

Dear Chairman Cochran, 

We write to strongly urge you to reverse the drastic funding cuts to police training and body cameras in the Republican Budget Conference report.  Unfortunately, the sequestration cuts in the FY 2016 Budget Conference Agreement could reduce funding by $24 million for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program, a key funding program that municipalities and police departments rely on to fund innovative tools like body cameras.  

The dramatic cuts to federal law enforcement funding in the Republican budget are out of step with the needs of community policing efforts on the ground across America.  Many state and local governments use these federal funding programs to test emerging approaches to public safety challenges, such as the use of body cameras by state and local police officers to document police interactions.  In 2012 and 2013, over 600 JAG recipients nationwide used federal funding for police camera technology.[1]

Recent events in Cleveland, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Ferguson, Missouri; and elsewhere across the nation make funding that supports investment in body-worn camera technology by state and local law enforcement all the more critical.  According to the Department of Justice, “body-worn camera technology is a valuable tool for improving police-citizen relationships.”[2]  In some instances, body worn cameras have been found to reduce the use of force by officers by as much as 60 percent, reduce citizen complaints by as much as 88 percent, assist in resolving complaints against the police, and reduce the likelihood of false complaints against the police.[3]

In addition to our request that you reverse the drastic cuts made to the Byrne JAG program, we also request that you fully fund the President’s proposal for a three-year $263 million investment in body-worn cameras, expanded law enforcement training, and additional resources for police department reform.  These funds would not only provide important additional resources for overburdened state and local law enforcement agencies, they could also go a long way towards restoring relationships between law enforcement and the communities that they serve and protect.  As Attorney General Loretta Lynch highlighted in a press release announcing the DOJ’s body-worn camera pilot program, “[b]ody-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability, and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”[4]

Trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve is necessary not only for the stability and safety of our communities, but also for the integrity of our criminal justice system.  We strongly urge you to fully fund these vital law enforcement grant programs. 



[3] White, Michael  Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center, Police Officer Body Worn Cameras-Assessing the Evidence, last accessed 5/4/15 at https://ojpdiagnosticcenter.org/sites/default/files/spotlight/download/Police%20Officer%20Body-Worn%20Cameras.pdf.

[4] DOJ, 5/1/15, last accessed 5/1/15 at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-announces-20-million-funding-support-body-worn-camera-pilot-program.