WILKES-BARRE — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey made a simple argument: More cops on the street make for safer streets and more bulletproof vests for cops make for safer cops.
Casey, D-Scranton, made the plea for increased funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program and for the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program. He sent letters to the ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to increase allocations to the two “underfunded” programs.
“Despite the clear need for more officers on the streets with the right technology and resources, federal programs to provide our first responders with this support has been underfunded for years,” he said.
Casey pushed for a plan to add more cops to Pennsylvania’s streets after a $118 million cut to the COPS Hiring program since 2010. Casey highlighted the need for Congress to fund the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program, which he said literally saves lives of officers in the field.
Pennsylvania county-by-county data provided by Casey’s office shows the impact that the COPS program has had in recent years. In Luzerne County, about 107 officers and one in-school officer have been hired through the program with a total allocation of more than $7.2 million.
Casey noted the COPS program has added 3,667 law enforcement officers to Pennsylvania’s streets since 1995.
“I fully expect bipartisan support for these programs,” Casey said. “If you are pro-law enforcement, you’ve got to support these programs strongly and support the funding increases.”
Casey said he wondered what Americans got for cutting the bulletproof vest program.
“I’ll answer that — nothing,” he said. “We can can easily keep the funding levels higher for these two critically important and vital programs.”
Casey sent separate letters to senators Barbara Mikulski and Richard Shelby, ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice & Science Subcommittee. Casey asked for a minimum of $247 million for the COPS program in fiscal year 2015 and a standalone funding level of $30 million for the Bulletproof Vest program.
“As you know, in recent years, budget constraints have forced many municipalities to either reduce hiring or lay off public safety officers,” Casey wrote. “While fiscal responsibility requires tough budget decisions at every level of government, public safety must not be compromised in the process.”
Casey said that according to the Government Accountability Office, bulletproof vests have saved the lives of more than 3,000 law enforcement officers since 1987.
“In recent years, demand for bulletproof vests has been outpacing funding for the program,” Casey said. “In 2013, the program was able to cover only a third of the cost of purchasing a new vest, rather than half of the cost, as the law provides.”