By David Pendered
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner testified Tuesday before a Congressional subcommittee to oppose proposed cutbacks in federal funding to local law enforcement – including terrorist prevention programs.
Turner joined a chorus that included New York Mayor Bill deBlasio and Jim Butterworth, director of Georgia’s Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security.
In all, six officials involved with public safety programs said the nation needs to increase its funding of local efforts to prevent crisis situations. President Obama’s proposed 2017 budget reduces funding for some of these programs.
The venue was a hearing with an ominous title called by the House Emergency Preparedness and Response Subcommittee on Homeland Security. The title was, “State of Emergency, the Disaster of Cutting Preparedness Grants.”
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) chairs the subcommittee and his office described the purpose of the meeting:
- “Obama’s budget calls for cutting the funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative, an anti-terror program, from $600 million to $330 million. The proposed cut is opposed by a broad cross-section of lawmakers and officials, including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York), Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.”
Turner borrowed a line of his prepared remarks from the title of the meeting:
- “[T]he proposed 2017 budget reductions represent the most drastic cuts in a downward spiral of declining help from Washington. In the face of the current threat, Police Chiefs agree with the title of today’s hearing – it is indeed a disaster.”
Turner noted that he spoke as both Atlanta’s police chief and as a board member and 2nd vice president for the Major Cities Chiefs, an organization that represents law enforcement for the 68 largest cities in the nation.
“I appeal to Congress not to abandon the officers who put their lives on the line every day,” Turner said. “Forgive me if a term like ‘abandon’ sounds like hyperbole, but for police officers in every major American city, I can tell you this is not empty rhetoric.”
Turner described the reduced amount of grant funding available to local law enforcement from the Department of Homeland Security:
- “DHS funding for the combined grant programs in 2010 was more than $3 billion. By 2016, the current fiscal year, it had fallen to half that amount. If Congress were to approve the cuts proposed for the coming year, law enforcement agencies could receive as little as a third of what was once provided by Washington.”
Subcommittee member Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Republican who serves Bartow and Cherokee counties and parts of Cobb and Fulton counties, arrived late to the meeting from another event and asked how significant the budget cuts are to a region that is home to the world’s busiest passenger airport, a major seaport, headquarters for many Fortune 500 businesses, home of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the financial center of the southeast, and a region that is subjected to tornados and hurricanes.
Butterworth stepped up to answer:
- “It’s highly disastrous. Detrimental would be another term I would use.”