A key Republican senator and several Democrats, criticized the Justice Department yesterday for proposing deep cuts in assistance to local law enforcement agencies, reports the Washington Post. They argued that the reductions would hamper efforts to combat terrorism, methamphetamine trafficking, and other threats. At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department’s budget, Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Al.) and Democratic colleagues sharply questioned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about an administration proposal to slash assistance to local law enforcement by more than $1 billion in fiscal 2007. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and Drug Enforcement Administration chief Karen P. Tandy acknowledged that the proposed cuts could limit enforcement efforts and discourage local police from offering assistance in terrorism inquiries and other federal investigations.
Shelby calculated that the administration proposal would cut aid to local police by 51 percent. Gonzales said the cuts were a “difficult decision” that reflected a desire to focus on the most effective uses of taxpayer money. The International Association of Chiefs of Police and other police groups are lobbying Congress to restore the proposed cuts in a final budget. They say the reductions would mark a 10-year low in federal assistance to police as local law enforcement is being called upon to play a central role in homeland security and counterterrorism efforts. Among controversial proposals are a $376 million reduction in the popular Community Oriented Policing Services program and the elimination of the both the $416 million Justice Assistance Grant program and the $400 million Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program at the Department of Homeland Security.