Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives Meeting
September 26, 2005
Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. I appreciate the opportunity to share with NAWLEE my priorities for the Office of Justice Programs.
OJP, as you probably know, is the chief federal supporter of state and local criminal and juvenile justice initiatives. And we've been working on a number of fronts to support law enforcement.
Last month, we announced the latest in our efforts to protect officer safety through the Body Armor Safety Initiative. The IACP and law enforcement agencies and organizations have been instrumental in guiding us through this process.
Our latest announcement in August centered on the results of testing on used Zylon®-based armor. NIJ tested more than 100 used Zylon®-containing armor vests from law enforcement agencies around the country. What we found is that the level of protection provided by the tested armor decreases significantly over time as a result of exposure to light and moisture.
Fifty-eight percent of the armor vests tested experienced at least one penetration during a six-shot ballistic testing series. Only four passed all tests within the limits of NIJ's standard for new body armor.
Although these results do not show conclusively that all Zylon®-containing armor models have performance problems, they clearly demonstrate that used models may not provide the intended level of ballistic resistance.
In response to these findings, we are taking several steps, including the following:
First, our National Institute of Justice is issuing an advisory notice to alert law enforcement to the potential risks associated with the use of Zylon® in body armor.
Second, to help ensure that officers are protected by armor that maintains its ballistic performance during the entire warranty period, NIJ has adopted new interim requirements for its body armor compliance testing program. We will recommend that those who purchase new bullet-resistant armor select models that comply with the new requirements.
Third, until the new requirements become effective, Zylon®-based armor vests will not be eligible for purchase with federal funds through our Bulletproof Vest Partnership program. The BVP program is a cornerstone of our efforts to keep law enforcement officers safe in the line of duty. Since its inception in 1998, it has helped law enforcement agencies in more than 11,500 jurisdictions purchase some 450,000 bullet-resistant vests.
Fourth, to better meet the vest replacement needs of law enforcement agencies this year, our Bureau of Justice Assistance, which administers the Bulletproof Vest Partnership program, has made $23.6 million available to them through its FY 2005 BVP program, and an additional $10 million through a special BVP solicitation.
Finally, NIJ will continue its research program in an effort to gain a better understanding of the degradation mechanisms of other ballistic materials, and how they affect armor performance.
NIJ also will continue research to develop non-destructive methods for testing the ongoing performance of body armor.
These are some of the steps we've taken to help ensure that law enforcement officers have protective equipment they can rely on.
One of our larger investments in local crime-fighting efforts is Project Safe Neighborhoods. You may be very familiar with Project Safe Neighborhoods, or PSN, as we refer to it. PSN is a partnership between federal, state, and local law enforcement and community organizations to fight gun crime and to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
The theory behind Project Safe Neighborhoods is that the solution to gun violence lies not in the passage of more laws, but in the enforcement of laws that are already on the books. By pooling resources, law enforcement officials and prosecutors have made remarkable progress in reducing gun crime.
Prosecutions of gun crimes have increased significantly, and gun criminals are serving hard time. Better yet, communities are seeing marked reductions in the incidence of gun violence.
The President's budget for next year requests $165 million for the PSN programs administered by the Office of Justice Programs. Funds will go toward enhancing enforcement, distributing gun locks, and improving criminal history records.
Helping law enforcement combat gang violence is another priority of mine.
Gangs have become as pervasive as they are dangerous. And they've become more sophisticated and stealthy in how they commit crimes.
Gangs are now the primary distributors of drugs in the United States. A significant and growing number are associated with organized crime. And they're using available technology to perpetrate criminal acts.
The Attorney General has established an Anti-Gang Coordination Committee to advise the Department on resource allocation, policy, and budget recommendations. He also has asked every U.S. Attorney to appoint an anti-gang coordinator in his or her district. This coordinator will work with local law enforcement to design a strategy for combating gangs.
In OJP, we continue to support programs designed to deter gang activity.
This summer, we awarded more than $24 million to support anti-gang initiatives such as the Gang Resistance Education and Training, or GREAT, Program. The GREAT Program helps to prevent youth crime and gang involvement by fostering positive relationships between law enforcement and youth.
The value of GREAT is that it gives young people direct exposure to the men and women who protect their communities. It breaks down stereotypes that at-risk youth might have about law enforcement, and it helps kids gain respect for the law.
Illegal drugs are yet another threat to public safety, and reducing their impact is also an OJP priority. In fact, drug trafficking enterprises have been linked to the financing of certain terrorist groups, so they're actually a threat to our nation's security.
One of the more challenging drug problems is that of methamphetamine. The manufacture of meth is on the rise throughout the country and it is affecting many communities. Meth makers have been successful because the ingredients for making it are easy to obtain and meth operations are easy to hide.
Meth also is dangerously toxic. It can affect not only its users, but those who are in its proximity. Children who live in areas where meth is manufactured are especially vulnerable. Meth also poisons the environment.
The Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services - better known as the COPS Office - administers a program to help law enforcement agencies clean up clandestine meth labs. The President's budget requests $20 million next year to support the Meth Hot Spots program.
OJP also is devoting substantial resources to help fight crime through the use of DNA evidence. Under the President's DNA Initiative, more than $1 billion over five years will go to expanding the use of DNA.
Just last week, we announced the award of more than $84 million in DNA grants and an additional $13 million to improve forensic services. These funds will go toward:
- eliminating DNA casework backlogs,
- expanding the capacity of crime labs,
- training justice system personnel,
- improving research and development,
- testing convicted offenders,
- enhancing forensic services, and
- identifying missing persons.
We also awarded $2 million to five jurisdictions under a pilot program to use DNA to solve high-volume property crimes like burglary and car theft.
The President is asking for $236 million next year under the DNA initiative.
Another priority area is responding to crimes against children.
One of our important efforts here has been in expanding the AMBER Alert network. AMBER is a coordinated effort between law enforcement officials, broadcasters, transportation officials, and others. The partnership has been a very effective one as it has helped to recover 215 abducted children.
AMBER Alert is part of an overall OJP and Justice Department strategy to protect children. We're also active in the fight against child pornography. Our Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program has trained thousands of law enforcement officers in the investigation of cybercrimes against children.
And we're working to help local law enforcement agencies manage sex offenders. We recently launched the National Sex Offender Public Registry. The registry is a Web-based program that allows users immediate access to sex offender registries from all states and territories.
These are some of the many ways OJP is supporting law enforcement.
I believe that close coordination and consultation are the key to effective crime fighting, especially when so many issues compete for our attention. Rest assured that I will use my position as Assistant Attorney General to see that the issues of law enforcement are addressed and your needs met.
I appreciate your time, and I look forward to our work together on behalf of the safety of America's communities.Thank you.