A U.S. Department of Justice program to train state and local police officers how to fight terrorism will continue indefinitely, despite an earlier announcement that it would shut down this past September.
The program is called the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training Program, or SLATT, and its declared mission is to provide “critical training and resources to our nation’s law enforcement, who face the challenges presented by the terrorist/violent criminal extremist threat.”
In July, The Crime Report said that the popular program was due to end on September 30. Congress had failed for three years to provide funds for it, but the Obama Justice Department had found money to keep it alive.
The Trump administration didn’t request funding for SLATT, even though President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have been strong supporters of law enforcement and have spoken out forcefully against terrorism.
Now it turns out that the DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance, which has overseen SLATT since it was launched back in 1996, is determined to keep it operating, with Trump administration backing.
By Washington, D.C., standards, SLATT is a small program, commanding only about $1 million a year. Justice Department officials say they are able to find funds for it in a fairly large pot of money called the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, usually known by its key initials JAG.
Over the years, SLATT has spent more than $45 million training more than 146,700 law enforcement professionals. It also has funded a “Train-the-Trainer Workshop” that has taught about 3,500 law enforcement trainers, who in turn have provided instruction to about 270,000 more law enforcement officers.
The job of running SLATT has been contracted to the Institute for Intergovernmental Research (IRR), a Tallahassee, Florida-based firm headed by Rick Gregory, a former police chief in Utah and Delaware.
Because of the funding uncertainties, SLATT will be offered on a curtailed basis during what DOJ is calling the current “bridge year” until it it resumes at full strength next October.
In the past, local police officers have been offered a two-and-one-half day training session covering such topics as terrorism ideologies, dealing with domestic terrorists including “sovereign citizens” and anarchists, international terrorism, and intelligence and information sharing among law enforcement agencies.
For the next few months, SLATT will be taught to local police in a shortened one-day form.
Probably by early next year, the Justice Department will post a notice offering any training provider the chance to bid on the opportunity to run SLATT.
DOJ will seek a revised curriculum that will make more use of FBI training materials than the current course does.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the nation’s largest group of police managers, is enthusiastic about SLATT’s continuation. IACP says that although large police departments like New York City and Los Angeles have the capacity to train their own officers about terrorism, there are about 18,000 law enforcement agencies around the U.S., most of which have two dozen employees or fewer and cannot provide such specialized training.
If SLATT is so popular and fighting terrorism is such a major federal cause, why is there so little formal support for it in the capital?
The Trump administration has been in office less than a year, and hasn’t gotten around to naming a director for the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and many other federal agencies.
As for Congress, it has managed to keep the federal government going only by means of a “continuing resolution” that expires on December 8.
Money for the Justice Department is combined in a fund that includes the Commerce Department and science agencies like NASA.
The Senate and House committees that deal with those units have about $54 billion to spend this year, meaning that it is easy for a program like SLATT to get lost in the shuffle.
Those interested in following SLATT’s progress in the future can check its website.
Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau chief of The Crime Report. Comments welcome.