Senators Form Bi-partisan Law Enforcement Caucus
Laura DeKoven Waxman
October 17, 2011
Delaware Senator Chris Coons and Missouri Senator Roy Blunt announced October 12 the formation of the first-ever bipartisan Senate Law Enforcement Caucus. Its purpose is to educate and inform the Senate about programs and initiatives that have been successful in keeping communities safe and advocate “for the policies and resources law enforcement agencies need to carry out their missions.” Coons and Blunt are the Caucus’s founders and co-chairs.
“There has always been deep bi-partisan support for law enforcement in Congress. Our aim in forming the caucus is to focus it on a meaningful conversation that reinforces the federal commitment to assisting state and local law enforcement,” Coons said during his introductory remarks. Blunt commented that there is a federal role to provide additional support to law enforcement that will help them in areas such as fighting the drug problem and making sure law enforcement can communicate. He announced that 16 other Senators are founding members of the Caucus.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who serves as president of both Major Cities Chiefs and the Police Executive Research Forum, took part in the event. Saying that the establishment of the caucus was long overdue, he described police chiefs’ top priorities:
- Ramsey said all cities are facing funding pressures and many like his have a resulting shortage of police officers. Recognizing the fiscal challenges facing the federal government, he suggested the need to work together to keep what is most important. He mentioned specifically the COPS program, Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, and separately funded law enforcement terrorism prevention grants.
- Ramsey also discussed the importance of developing a nationwide interoperable public safety communications network and called for reallocating the D Block to public safety and providing funding to help in building out the infrastructure needed to establish the network. He said it’s “embarrassing that we’re still having this discussion” ten years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
- He expressed the chiefs’ concern about the likely passage in the House of legislation (H.R. 822) which would override state laws by forcing states with tight restrictions on who can get concealed carry permits to allow out-of'state residents to carry loaded, hidden weapons in public even if they have not met basic licensing or training requirements mandated for carrying in that state. He indicated he expected the House would pass the bill and called on the Senate to stop it.
Other founding members of the Law Enforcement Caucus include Senators Kent Conrad (ND), Jeff Sessions (AL), Dick Durbin (IL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Ben Nelson (NE), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Lindsey Graham (SC), Richard Burr (NC), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Roger Wicker (MS), Mark Kirk (IL), John Boozman (AR), John Hoeven (ND), Richard Blumenthal (CT), and Dean Heller (NV).
The Caucus’ goals are to:
- Raise awareness and support for beneficial law enforcement and criminal justice initiatives in the Senate.
- Reinforce the federal commitment to assisting state and local law enforcement agencies in the performance of their duties.
- Strengthen working partnerships between national, state and local law enforcement agencies.
- Facilitate an exchange and debate of information, ideas, and concerns within law enforcement.
- Promote an inclusive and collaborative approach to combating crime and promoting community safety.
- Advocate policies and measures that emphasize and enhance officer safety.
- Highlight and promote professional careers in law enforcement.