Burlington, Vt., Police Chief Michael Schirling told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that his department needs renewed federal aid as the economic recession threatens to increase crime while forcing cuts in small-town police forces, reports the Burlington (VT) Free Press. Without a boost in federal money, the Burlington will have to cut officers and civilian employees, forgo bulletproof vests and communications equipment, and reduce efforts to fight drug trafficking and improve traffic safety, Schirling said.
Schirling and other witnesses want a revival of the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and an increase in funding for the Edward R. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which provides money to local governments to prevent and control crime and improve the criminal justice system. Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is pushing to boost federal law enforcement grants as part of an economic stimulus package congressional leaders hope to pass in the coming weeks. Leahy this week introduced the Rural Law Enforcement Assistance Act, which would authorize $75 million a year over the next five years in new Byrne grant money for rural areas. “We must act quickly and decisively to shore up state and local law enforcement, or face a reversal of the great strides we made to reduce crime in the 1990s,” Leahy said.