Feb 14 2018
The role of law enforcement is changing. Today we ask the men and women who serve and protect our communities to perform a variety of roles from emergency response to public safety and community outreach. As a member of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, I am committed to supporting our officers and advocating for policies and resources to help them successfully carry out their missions. This is why I recently called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to restore critical Department of Justice (DOJ) funding that Arkansas law enforcement agencies rely on.
The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program was created more than a decade ago to help states and local law enforcement agencies purchase essential equipment and support drug treatment and enforcement activities. It is the largest source of federal justice funding to provide law enforcement officers with the tools and training to protect our communities.
Arkansas law enforcement agencies have received millions of dollars through this program to support training, personnel, equipment, supplies and information sharing. Our state is eligible for more than $2 million in funding from Fiscal Year 2017. Unfortunately, DOJ has frozen payments nationwide because some communities and states are violating federal immigration law. This leaves states like Arkansas, scrambling to continue funding crucial safety programs.
In the Natural State, Byrne JAG helps fund multi-jurisdictional programs like Drug Task Forces. In a meeting recently in Washington, Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane said limited funds threaten the ability of the task forces to accomplish their missions. This spring, matching funds from the state will run dry, so unless DOJ releases Byrne JAG funds, the critical work done by officers who are a part of theses task forces to fight the opioid epidemic and other drug abuses will be out of business.
Law enforcement leaders across the state have similar concerns. The Byrne JAG program is vital to supporting their agencies and combatting drug problems and violent crime in Arkansas. DOJ needs to reconsider withholding these funds because of the long-term negative consequences to the safety of our communities. Denying these resources is counterproductive to fighting crime. Byrne JAG is an investment in our safety and our law enforcement officers.
The tradition of courageous public service is carried on today by the men and women who keep communities across the country safe and who are always ready and willing to respond to a call for help. We need to continue our commitment to ensuring they have the tools and the resources they need to do their jobs so they can return home to their families. It’s time that DOJ does its part to make this a reality.