ARRA COPS Press Conference
July 28, 2009
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Attorney General, Governor Rendell, Governor Corzine, Governor Markell, Mayor Nutter, Commissioner Ramsey, it is an honor to stand here with you today.
Speaking as a governor, let me say upfront that I can personally attest to the difference that the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act is making for us in the states. Make no mistake, it’s been a lifeline.
In Maryland, it’s allowed us to save the jobs of police officers and teachers. It’s saved us from having to push children and vulnerable adults off of health care coverage. It’s allowed us to protect the investments in our public schools that we’ve used to build what Education Week magazine says is the nation’s best public school system. And in these difficult times, it’s putting money back into the pockets of 95% of working families through common sense tax relief.
I can also attest to the fundamental importance of the COPS program to our ongoing efforts as a country to take back our streets from crime, violence, and the foreign chemical invasion of cocaine and heroine – these scourges which tear apart communities and households and undermine our shared progress as a people.
When I had the privilege of serving the people of the City of Baltimore as Mayor, I called a talented, dedicated Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration by the name of Eric Holder to ask him for assistance in hiring new police officers. We had been working with our citizens to turn around what at the time was the most violent and drug addicted City in America. And we did, teaming with law enforcement and our fellow citizens to reduce violent crime by 40%.
The $24 million COPS grant that Mr. Holder sent to the City of Baltimore allowed us to hire 200 additional police officers. It allowed us to save lives and retake neighborhoods which had previously been considered ungovernable.
Shortly afterwards, COPS (as we all know) fell victim to partisan political posturing. In my opinion, it was one of the greatest missed opportunities of the previous 8 years.
President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Attorney General Holder have shown great leadership in fighting to restore COPS – and I know, Mr. Vice President, that this is an issue near and dear to your heart. We all owe you a great debt of gratitude for fighting to create the COPS program during your tenure in the Senate.
In Maryland, where we’ve set a goal of reducing violent crime by 10% each year, the COPS program is allowing our communities to hire 112 police officers in tough economic times when government budgets at all levels are feeling increasingly squeezed. Mr. Attorney General, thank you for moving so swiftly to get our communities the assistance they need.
At the state level, we’re using our Recovery & Reinvestment Act dollars to provide up to $10,000 to help local law enforcement purchase radios, bullet-proof vests, computers, and other essential equipment to support each newly hired officer. We’re also using these federal investments to aid our efforts at knocking out a backlog of 4,000 warrants for violent offenders, to hire 25 crime analysts, to build a statewide interoperability network, and to support an array of shovel ready technology projects, ranging from CCTV to digital fingerprinting to license plate recognition.
All of us, whether we happen to be Democrats or Republicans, from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland,… or Alaska … can agree that every American deserves to live in a safe neighborhood. That every child ought to have a safe place to play, away from violence or hypodermic needles. These are basic aspirations which I believe are shared by all Americans; perhaps by all of humanity.