Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Acting Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Police Executive Research Forum
March 26, 2009
Thank you, Chuck. And thank you, Chief Timoney. I'm so glad to be here. I remember being with you - along with Eric Holder - at your forum in October - in the heat of the campaign. And I remember being with you on a cold January day - the 28th - only 2 ½ hours after I walked into OJP after being appointed by the President for this "short term" assignment I agreed to do. But Chuck told me it would be good to come by, so I did.
Let me just say, before I begin, how much I appreciate PERF's partnership with OJP. I know Chuck and his staff have been working with BJA, NIJ, and our other bureaus on a host of projects, ranging from research and planning to victim assistance. I think the field has benefited immensely from our collaboration, and I look forward to continuing our partnership.
I appreciate that you made room in your agenda for much of the OJP contingent. It's not our intention to monopolize this session, but I do think it's important for everyone to understand that all of OJP has been involved with the Recovery Act. Most of the money is coming out of BJA, so Jim and his staff have been going non-stop. Kris and her staff at NIJ have been focused on evaluation programs related to the Recovery Act. You'll hear about those from her later in the session.
So it's a very busy time at OJP - but it's also an exciting time. After eight years of neglecting our local and state partners and draining resources away from police departments, the U.S. Department of Justice is finally back to supporting the core mission of law enforcement.
We can thank our President and our Attorney General for that. During the campaign, President Obama said - and I'm quoting - "protecting citizens and safeguarding our communities is our first and most solemn duty in government." And he made it a point to voice his support for restoring Byrne and COPS funding. Clearly, he's living up to that promise.
As for Attorney General Holder, we all know that he's been in the trenches as a local prosecutor, and as a local superior court judge. He's seen how crime has affected things in a local way. He has a very hands-on feel for the issues. He knows how important these resources are. And as a veteran of DOJ, he understands how our partnership - let me say that again, partnership - with local police is supposed to work. So there is a new era at the Department of Justice. And you know Eric Holder would be with you today if it weren't for a prior commitment with a group even more important to him than PERF - his family!
We know that law enforcement agencies have been struggling on many fronts to deal with the fall-out from the economic crisis. We're very grateful to Chuck and PERF for tracking recent trends - and they're very sobering, especially when you look at the incredibly high percentage of agencies that have been planning budget cuts. And I'd like to add that PERF has led the way in focusing on violent crime and calling attention to the problems that many cities are facing. The previous Justice Department didn't always appreciate PERF's work, but let me say that's not the case now.
The good news is that, thanks to the Recovery Act, we're saving jobs. We've already seen the results. Three weeks ago, President Obama and Attorney General Holder travelled to Columbus, Ohio to announce that 25 police recruits would be able to keep their jobs, thanks to Recovery Act funds. I was fortunate to join Chief Timoney, Mayor Diaz, and Vice President Biden that same day in Miami to make a companion announcement on Recovery Act funding.
So in spite of the bad economic news, I think there is every reason to be hopeful about our ability to tackle crime in our cities.
As you may know, the Recovery Act makes $4 billion available to the Justice Department to support criminal justice efforts. $2.7 billion of that money will be administered by the Office of Justice Programs in seven areas. You may be familiar with how that money breaks down, but I'll just take a moment to run through it.
- First, the lion's share of the money - $2 billion - will be available to local governments and states through the Byrne JAG formula grant program. As you know, these funds can support a wide range of criminal and juvenile justice activities - everything from drug and gang task forces, to courts and corrections, to treatment, prevention, and victim services. Funds can be used for everything from personnel, training, equipment, police vehicles, technology and information systems, to research and evaluation.
- The solicitations for both the local and the state Byrne JAG programs, as well as the local and state funding allocations, are posted on our Web site - www.ojp.gov/recovery.
- Just a note on the formula - 40 percent of this funding is allocated for local governments, which means that cities and counties can apply directly to OJP. The deadline for applications from local governments is May 18th. The remaining 60 percent is allocated to the states, but many cities and counties will be able to apply to the states for that funding. Just to give you a sense of the timeframe, state applications are due April 9th.
- We have some frequently asked questions about the Byrne JAG program posted on our Web site. The FAQ section includes responses to questions about eligibility, appropriate uses of funds, reporting, and a host of other issues. If you have any questions about Byrne JAG, you can e-mail us at JAGRecovery@usdoj.gov. And if neither of those options does the trick, you can actually speak to a live person. At the bottom of the FAQs is a link to the state policy advisors in our Bureau of Justice Assistance who will be glad to assist you.
- Moving on to the other Recovery Act programs available from OJP, the second area of funding is the Byrne Competitive Grants Program. $225 million is allocated for this program, and it will allow local law enforcement agencies and others to compete directly for funds. I think Jim will get into specifics about the award categories, but I want to mention that one is for the hiring of civilian staff in law enforcement agencies. This includes crime analysts, intelligence analysts, dispatchers, and training staff, all of whom - as I'm sure you'll agree - can be critical to law enforcement operations. We know that many of you have had to cut, or are planning to cut, non-sworn personnel. Since the COPS money can only be used to hire sworn officers - and you'll hear from Tim here as well - OJP's money can complement the COPS piece.
- The solicitation for Byrne competitive is now posted, and applications are due April 27th. We've also posted FAQs for this program, as well.
- The third area of funding under the Recovery Act is for rural law enforcement. There's $125 million to help rural agencies fight crime, particularly drug-related crime. And we'll give priority to those applicants that are not eligible to receive a direct JAG allocation. Applications for this program are due April 22nd.
- Fourth, $30 million is set aside for law enforcement agencies along the southern border and in High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to combat narcotics trafficking. This is in response to the concerns regarding Mexican drug activities seeping over the border. Applications from eligible agencies are due April 17th.
- Fifth, $50 million is allocated for the Internet Crimes Against Children Program. I'm sure many of you are involved with your regional ICAC task forces, and you know that they are partnerships among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. OJJDP is administering this program. Applications are due April 8th. Of course, eligible agencies are ICAC task force members that already receive ICAC funding.
- Sixth, $225 million is set aside for the construction of tribal corrections facilities.
- And finally, $100 million is available for victim assistance and victim compensation programs, and for victim-centered training, technical assistance, and demonstration projects.
As you can see, the Recovery Act makes substantial resources available to communities, including - importantly - funds to aid in job growth, job creation, and capacity building. And it's important to note that, with the exception of the tribal construction grants, no match is required for these programs. Let me say that again - no match is required for Recovery Act programs, except for tribal jail construction.
We estimate that some 12,000 additional grants are possible as a result of the Recovery Act. We've gotten a lot of questions about whether OJP is able to handle this extra load. OJP has a history of moving a large volume of grants, going back to the days of the Crime Bill in the mid-90s. I was Assistant Attorney General then and I know that OJP has both the means and the experience to move a lot of money quickly. We're very serious about delivering on the Administration's promise of timely, targeted, and transparent funding.
Getting this money out is our highest priority, and we're moving quickly. All program announcements are posted. And by the way, we're asking applicants to apply through the Grant Management System on our Web site instead of using Grants.gov. This will help ensure against any technical glitches that may come about as a result of overload of the Grants.gov Web site.
As we receive applications, we will begin making formula awards on a rolling basis within 15 days. And we'll have all discretionary awards made by July. We'll need your help spreading the word about these resources, and about application deadlines and connecting applicants to the assistance they need to apply. We want to make sure that no one's left out.
The other element of all this - and I'll just touch on this briefly - is transparency. As award recipients and amounts are determined, and as we get information about grants, we'll post all that on Recovery.Gov, where you can see exactly where the money goes and how it's used. And tied to that - we're going to be held highly accountable for Recovery Act funding, which in turn means that grants will be monitored very closely and performance measures taken very seriously.
So we've got our work cut out for us, but we're very excited - both for what this funding means for law enforcement agencies and communities, and for the innovation in criminal justice that it can bring.
Also, just a quick word on the '09 omnibus appropriations bill. It includes more than $1.3 billion for state and local law enforcement assistance, including $546 million for Byrne JAG. This is money in addition to the Recovery Act resources I just described. More to come on the '09 money later.
I want to close by reiterating that the Department of Justice and the Office of Justice Programs are very committed to working with you in every way we can as partners in addressing public safety. I've been in this business a long time. Things are tough right now, but it's great to see the federal government - finally - reengaging as a full partner with state and local law enforcement.
So thank you for your leadership and for the work you're doing on behalf of public safety in your communities. Thank you again, Chuck and John Timoney, and thanks to the PERF staff. And thank you all for your time here today.