Leaders of 26 law enforcement and criminal-justice organizations today protested to congressional leaders “massive cuts” voted by Congress last month in the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, saying the cuts “send the wrong message to criminals and drug traffickers.” In appropriations for the current federal fiscal year approved in December, Congress cut this year’s budget for JAG aid to states and localities from $520 million to $170 million. The groups said the cuts would affect multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, as well as cold case units, identity theft investigations, school violence prevention, hate crime programs, services for threatened jurors, victims, and witnesses, and other efforts.
The groups noted that both the Senate and House had approved more than $600 million for the program. The budget was slashed by a conference committee a week before Christmas after President Bush threatened to veto the bill unless it included sufficient funds to support the war in Iraq. Tomorrow, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Christopher Bond (R-MO) are expected to announce a drive to restore the funds. Topping the signatures on the letter sent to Congress today were Ronald Brooks, president of the National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition and David Steingraber, president of the National Criminal Justice Association.