Cybele K. Daley, Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
2006 Concerns of Police Survivors National Conference
May 13, 2006
Thank you, Suzie [Sawyer]. You and I have known each other for years, and I continue to be so impressed by the work that you and Shirley [Gibson] do for survivors.
I know that I speak for all of us here when I say how much we admire Suzie's and Shirley's dedication. They are both excellent advocates. We're fortunate to have them working on behalf of law enforcement families nationwide.
I'm honored to be here this morning representing the Office of Justice Programs and Assistant Attorney General Regina Schofield.
In particular, I'm honored that after 17 years of working with law enforcement on policy, budget, appropriations, and legislation, I'm in a position that allows me to speak on issues that I'm passionate about. I'm proud of my work and proud to have been appointed by the President. I'm also proud to say that I have worked the Memorial Service for the last 10 years. And, I'm proud to say that I'm an FOP wife.
With that said, I don't have to tell you why we're here today.
In fact, on Monday, we were harshly and tragically reminded of the risks law enforcement officers face every day. Sadly, a mother and nine-year veteran of the Fairfax County Police Department, Vicky Armel, was gunned down in the parking lot of her police station by a man awaiting trial on carjacking charges. Because of his cold-blooded act of violence, two young children now are without a mother, a husband has lost his wife, and a community is robbed of a dedicated public servant. Our prayers are with Detective Armel's loved ones.
All of us recognize the importance of honoring our law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their families, friends, and neighbors by protecting their communities. It's fitting that the country recognizes their contributions during National Police Week. On Monday, the President and the Attorney General will participate in the 25th annual National Peace Officer's Memorial Day service.
It is also important to ensure that we support state and local law enforcement and give them the tools they need to do their jobs. To this end, OJP is working in several areas that I would like to share with you.
Protecting our officers is our top priority. It's been 30 years since body armor was developed, and its use has saved lives.
Last year, we issued our third status report about the performance of Zylon-containing armor. When we learned that Zylon-containing vests may degrade over time, we responded quickly. We awarded an additional $10 million to state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to purchase new bulletproof vests. Since 1999, we've awarded $176 million to purchase and replace vests.
We are continuing our Body Armor Safety Initiative by testing new models of body armor, and taking a closer look at the compliance testing process.
Another of our priorities is improving the Public Safety Officers Benefits System, or PSOB, which provides death, disability, and education assistance to those eligible for benefits. I know that you have had many, and I would add justified, concerns about the system and the delay in processing claims.
Yesterday, we launched a new Web site, www.psob.gov, which we think will help speed up the processing of PSOB forms and eliminate time-consuming paperwork and lost files. Later this afternoon, Hope Janke, from our Bureau of Justice Assistance, will provide a detailed briefing on the system, and I hope you will attend.
I know that many of you also are interested in an update about Hometown Heroes. According to the latest information we have, the final regulations are due out in July!
Another challenge, and a priority of the Attorney General, is addressing the impact of methamphetamine, or meth, on people in our communities. We're also concerned about possible health effects for the law enforcement officers who are exposed to meth as a result of their duties. Later this year, we will convene a focus group of law enforcement officers and researchers. We want to discuss what we know about the health consequences of exposure to meth and its by-products, and how we can get the word out about these issues.
Another challenge for all of us is a possible outbreak of the Avian Bird Flu or another form of pandemic.
On May 4, the White House released the Implementation Plan for its Pandemic Influenza Strategy. This plan incorporates the officer safety lessons we learned after Hurricane Katrina. Our Bureau of Justice Assistance will be launching a project to help prepare officers and their families in case of a pandemic. We know that we'll need officers on duty, and we want them to know that their families are prepared and safe.
While we're on the subject of officer safety, there are two problems officers regularly encounter - violent suspects and car thieves.
We're working with the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit to identify key warning signs of possible violent encounters. And, we're developing approaches officers can use to prevent such encounters. In addition, we have a pocket guide for officers, which will be available in the next two months.
Although auto theft has been declining nationwide, pursuits and auto accidents related to these pursuits put officers and citizens at great risk. That is why we have placed a priority on addressing this crime. We are working closely with the FBI's Major Theft Unit and groups, such as the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, to identify ways of making auto theft a more difficult and less attractive crime. We hope this also will help save lives.
One of our most exciting programs involves a partnership with COPS and our Office for Victims of Crime. OVC awarded $50,000 to COPS to develop a 16-hour training program called "From Peer Support to Victim Advocacy." The program has enrolled 75 individuals from the national membership of COPS.
The training program, which took place in July 2005 in Missouri - Suzie's home state - provided information on the criminal justice system and training for peer-support personnel who are active in COPS chapters nationwide. The training focused on how to make compassionate and appropriate contact with the survivors of officers killed in the line of duty.
Both COPS and OJP will continue to build on this successful training.
For example, in March 2007, COPS will train 65 of its representatives on "How to Facilitate Support Meetings for Victims of Trauma."
During the first quarter of 2007, COPS also will conduct seven regional segments of its "The Traumas of Law Enforcement" training. And, they will provide eight segments of the same training to tribal law enforcement agencies from June of this year through November 2007.
In closing, I'd like to return to what I said at the beginning of my remarks. It is essential for us to continue to recognize the sacrifices made by our law enforcement officers -- your loved ones. We recognize your efforts to honor them and to ensure that their contributions are never forgotten.
Again, thank you for having me here today, and I hope that you benefit from your seminars over the next two days.