Secure America

Secure America 2017-02-18T08:55:30+00:00

Secure America

Increasing Safety, Justice, and Opportunity in America’s Cities

Many Americans in cities big and small do not feel safe or secure. This feeling can lead to a sense of disconnectedness and hopelessness that can affect city residents of all races and backgrounds. Too many feel alienated and disenfranchised. Mayors and local law enforcement officials across America are currently dealing with three immediate and interrelated challenges: building trust between the police and communities, reducing violent crime, and preventing terrorism.

While local law enforcement is at the tip of the spear in this nation’s pledge to ensure security, justice, and opportunity for all Americans, and while future economic growth may help to meet these challenges, currently, the nation’s cities have neither the resources nor the capabilities needed to fully deliver on this pledge. Fulfilling these responsibilities constitutes a national challenge that requires a national response, and it is the obligation of officials at all levels of government to find solutions to these complex problems.

The nation’s Mayors and Police Chiefs pledge to do their share and call on the next President and Congress to:

Strengthen Bonds Between Communities and Police

Provide resources to support police training in areas including implicit bias, de-escalation, and cultural sensitivity; hiring; technology and equipment; data collection and analysis; use-of-force policies; and officer safety and wellness. To accomplish this, expand the funding for and eligible uses of the COPS program; increase Byrne JAG funding; and invest additional resources in proven programs that can help to prevent crime and provide hope, such as the Community Development Block Grant. Treat violence as both a public safety and a public health problem, focusing efforts on violence prevention and intervention. Recognize, discuss and improve the relationship between race and policing.

Expand Homeland Security Grants

Bolster and reform homeland security grant programs, such as UASI, to provide funding directly and more broadly to local governments so that officials are better equipped and trained to prevent and respond to domestic acts of terrorism and violent extremism. Expand FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces, standardize fusion centers, and improve coordination among local, state and federal law enforcement.

Invest in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Increase investments in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs. Enact bipartisan legislation that would improve and reduce the interactions between mentally ill individuals and the criminal justice system. Fully fund the recently enacted Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

Reduce Gun Violence

Develop a consensus around gun safety provisions that will keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and others who would use them for illegal purposes.

Reform and Strengthen Reentry Services

Establish a Presidential Crime and Justice Commission to identify the current nature of crime in cities and metropolitan areas today, review and evaluate all components of the criminal justice system and make recommendations for comprehensive reforms aimed at assuring fairness and equity throughout the justice system. In the meantime, enact bipartisan bills currently pending in Congress that would reform some federal sentencing provisions while preventing release of serious and violent offenders who pose a threat to public safety, and help to reduce recidivism, and increase funding for existing programs that support the reentry of released prisoners to their communities and programs that focus on education, workforce training and economic opportunity.

Strengthen Bonds Between Communities and Police

The events that began in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014, have brought to the forefront serious social issues that must be addressed — issues of race, class, prejudice, poverty, and inequality. They also underscore the complex nature of policing in communities across the country. The tragic shootings that occurred this summer in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Falcon Heights rocked the nation and reinforced the need to continue to work on these issues. The more recent shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte and subsequent demonstrations they provoked reinforce the importance and the urgency of this effort.

After two years of decline, the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation increased 3.9 percent in 2015 when compared with 2014 data, according to FBI figures released September 26. Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter increased 10.8 percent when compared with estimates from 2014. This followed a significant decline in the crime rate over the past two decades.

An April report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers concluded that investments in police hiring can have significant impacts on crime and cautioned that these investments be accompanied by support for community policing strategies. The Council estimated that a 10 percent increase in police force size could decrease crime by 3–10 percent, and that a $10 billion investment in police hiring would decrease crime by 5–16 percent.

As we work in our cities to build trust between the police and the communities they serve and fight crime, federal funding that has supported these efforts in the past has been cut drastically. With the passage of the 1994 crime bill, the federal government began providing funding directly to police departments to hire police officers and institute community policing efforts. Between Fiscal Years 1995 and 2003 that amounted to about $1 billion per year. Since then the funding has decreased dramatically, with just $208 million available in FY 2015 to hire 915 additional officers and support community policing efforts.

The federal government supports local law enforcement across the globe. Over the past 15 years the Department of Defense has spent at least $122 billion on military and police aid to foreign countries like Colombia, Iraq and Afghanistan. These funds have been used to hire, train and equip local police as a way to stabilize urban environments. The State Department spends hundreds of millions more each year on Foreign Military Financing, International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, and International Military Education and Training — spending in FY 2016 alone $262 million in Iraq, $251 million in Afghanistan, and $145.4 million in Colombia.

We call on the next President and Congress to:

  • Expand the funding for and the eligible uses of the COPS program by increasing financial assistance to local police departments for hiring officers, providing both new and current officers needed training and equipment, and improving practices and officer wellness. To support and encourage local efforts to build and maintain trust between the police and the community, that training should cover reducing implicit bias; increasing cultural, ethnic, and racial sensitivity; de-escalation; and use of force. In addition funding should be provided to equip officers with body-worn cameras and other technology that helps them to build community trust and fight crime.
  • Increase Byrne JAG funding, which provides flexible, needed resources to police departments;
  • Invest additional resources in proven programs that can help to prevent crime and provide hope, such as the Community Development Block Grant.
  • To facilitate a public health response to violence that focuses on prevention and intervention, provide direct federal support to local governments, particularly those with highest need, so that they can undertake and expand violence interruption and other public health programming.

Expand Homeland Security Grants

The ever-changing threat from terrorism and violence inside our nation’s borders is no longer confined to our largest cities, with the recent attacks in San Bernardino; Orlando; St. Cloud; and Seaside and Elizabeth. ISIS has inspired lone wolf attackers whose acts of terror and hate have resulted in death and destruction; the current threat environment is serious.

Local law enforcement officers are critical to the nation’s ability to reduce violent extremism, prevent terrorist acts within the United States, and respond quickly when an incident does occur. In every domestic terrorist attack, it is the brave men and women of local police departments and other first responders who are on the ground responding to what has occurred, saving lives, and working with federal and state authorities to investigate, track down, and apprehend the individuals responsible for these horrific crimes of terror.

Local police departments don’t have the funding, training, or equipment to protect our country from terrorists, and terrorists are no longer just targeting the United States’ largest cities. Like the COPS program, funding for homeland security grant programs that support local capabilities to prevent and respond to terrorist incidents have been cut by approximately 50 percent, since they began in 2004. Last year, for example, only 28 metro areas received support through the Urban Area Security Initiative program, down from 64 in 2010.

Current homeland security programs and under-resourced, misaligned and do not necessarily reflect the increased threat from radicalized, lone-wolf terrorists. America relies on more than 1.3 million active-duty personnel and a trillion dollar annual budget to protect national security internationally; yet on the home front the FBI’s national terrorism task forces includes just 4,000 local, state, and federal officers.

With the increased threat of terrorism, we also need new ways to ensure close collaboration between local and federal agencies. We need strong, well-resourced local departments that can be eyes and ears on the street, and we need local police officers literally to be in the room so that local and federal authorities — including the FBI, ATF, DEA and U.S. Marshals — can share information in a continuous, timely, and reciprocal manner.

We call on the next President and Congress to:

  • Increase funding for and reform key homeland security grant programs, such as UASI, to provide adequate funding directly and more broadly to local governments so that officials are better equipped and trained to prevent and respond to acts of terrorism and violent extremism.
  • Provide local officials the flexibility to use these funds to meet locally identified priorities, including hiring police officers and undertaking positive engagement with a city’s Muslim population.
  • Expand FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces, standardize fusion centers, and improve coordination among local, state and federal law enforcement.
  • Provide the protection of federal hate crime laws to all citizens, and join mayors and police chiefs in speaking out against hate crimes and all discriminatory acts whenever they occur.

Invest in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Mass shootings and daily incidents of violence across America often are driven by chronic mental health problems as well as alcohol and drug abuse. On a daily basis police officers interact with mentally ill people, often lacking the training, authority or resources to adequately deal with the problems they face or refer them to the services they need. As a result they are sometimes forced to arrest them for minor offenses, as much for their own safety as for the public’s safety. As a result each year an estimated two million people with serious mental illnesses are admitted to jails across the nation; almost three-quarters of these adults also have co-occurring drug and/or alcohol use disorders; once incarcerated, individuals with mental illnesses tend to stay longer in jail, and, upon release, are at a higher risk of returning to incarceration than those without these illnesses.

Many people with serious mental illnesses who are incarcerated would be better served in the community, and though jails have a constitutional mandate to treat the mental illnesses of their inmates, they are often ill-equipped to meet their needs, or even to assess what those needs might be met. Jails spend two to three times more money on adults with mental illnesses than on those without those needs, yet they often do not see a return on those investments in terms of improved public safety or health of those individuals. While states and localities have made tremendous efforts to address this problem, they are often thwarted by significant obstacles, including inadequate data to inform policy changes, minimal resources, and a lack of coordination between criminal justice, mental health, substance use treatment, and other agencies.

We call on the next President and Congress to:

  • Increase investments in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs so that resources will be available to provide services to people with mental illness and substance abuse problems.
  • Enact bipartisan legislation that would improve and reduce the interactions between mentally ill individuals and the criminal justice system, instead providing these individuals with the help they need in an appropriate setting so that they can live in their communities as contributing members of society, including:
    • assisting state and local governments in creating pre-trial screening and assessment programs to identify offenders with mental illness;
    • directing federal judges to operate mental health court pilot programs and requiring state and local governments to direct federal funding towards the expansion of drug treatment, mental health and reentry courts and other specialized programs for those with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse problems;
    • requiring specialized training and technology so that those who work in the criminal justice system are properly equipped to respond to individuals with mental illness and mental illness crisis;
    • continuing federal support for mental health courts, crisis intervention teams, and corrections-based services for people with mental illness;
    • investing in veterans treatment courts; and
    • training local, state, and federal law enforcement officers in how to recognize and respond appropriately to mental health crises training that protects police officers and saves lives.
  • Fully fund the recently enacted Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which is intended to reduce addiction by expanding prevention, treatment, overdose reversal, and recovery services, improving coordination between law enforcement and the treatment community, expanding the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies, and providing evidence-based treatment in jails and prisons and expand alternatives to incarceration.

Reduce Gun Violence

Many cities are seeing an increase in the number of guns on the streets. When shootings occur, more guns, particularly those with high-capacity magazines, are being used and more rounds are being fired, leading to more victims shot, some of whom are children and other innocent bystanders. Each year, nearly 12,000 Americans are murdered with guns.

The proliferation of guns on the streets of cities across America has contributed to the fear of crime experienced by many Americans and aggravated police-community relations because of the expectation by both police officers and community residents that a gun may be present and may be used.

While enactment of reasonable gun safety legislation would help to reduce the gun violence and make our cities safer, it has become such a polarizing issue in our country that the most basic common sense legislation is unlikely to make it through Congress.

We call on the next President and Congress to:

  • Develop a consensus around gun safety provisions so that as a nation we can move forward to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and others who would use them for illegal purposes and enact other legislation that will reduce gun violence and gun deaths in this nation.

Reform the Criminal Justice System and Strengthen Reentry Services

The United States accounts for less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but has one-fourth of the world’s incarcerated people. Mass incarceration has not made our nation any safer, and it comes at a hefty price, both in dollars and in human capital.

  • We spend $80 billion every year on incarceration, money that would be better spent on the front end of the system to prevent crimes from occurring in the first place.
  • We jeopardize the future of children with a parent in prison. They are more than five times more likely to be expelled or suspended from school, and their family’s income drops considerably, on average, 22 percent over the years that a father is incarcerated.
  • These social costs are devastating, especially for African Americans and Latinos, who make up one quarter of the U.S. population but comprised 59 percent of those incarcerated in state and federal prisons as of the end of 2013. Harmful mandatory minimum sentencing policies, in particular, have had a disproportionate impact on these populations.

While many state and local governments have undertaken efforts to reform their portions of the nation’s criminal justice system, federal action is needed.

The police are the face of the criminal justice system for most members of the American public, but they are not responsible for and cannot control most of the components of that justice system. The justice system — top to bottom — is in need of review and reform. The last time such a review was conducted was nearly 50 years ago when, in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice and it issued its report.

We call on the next President and Congress to:

  • Establish a Presidential Commission on Crime and Justice to identify the current nature of crime in cities and metropolitan areas today, review and evaluate all components of the criminal justice system and make recommendations for comprehensive reforms aimed at assuring fairness and equity throughout the justice system. As part of this the Commission should take into account economic and social conditions that may contribute positively or negatively to crime and the role that race and ethnicity play in the criminal justice system and how problems relating to them can be overcome.
  • Enact bipartisan legislation currently pending in Congress that would reform some federal sentencing provisions, while preventing release of serious and violent offenders who pose a threat to public safety, and help to reduce recidivism through efforts that include supervision and drug treatment upon release and help to reduce recidivism.
  • Increase funding for other programs that focus on education, workforce training and economic opportunity, providing hope for the future for all Americans.
  • Increase funding for existing programs, such as Second Chance, that support the reentry of released prisoners to their communities so that they have a greater likelihood of being drug free and having the education, skills, and support needed to succeed and not commit further crimes.