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Thread: We need protection
03-30-11, 10:31 PM #1
We need protection
Written by Mark Nichols
The Gabrielle Giffords shooting has prompted several calls for new laws making it a crime to threaten public office holders, allowing senators and representatives to carry concealed firearms inside government buildings and a host of other proposals. But many of those proposals do not address the reality that Giffords was shot at home in Arizona, not in the nation's capitol. And now, with irony so thick you could frost a cake with it, Congress is looking to local law enforcement for protection while at the same time enacting laws and policies that make policing that much more difficult.
According to the Fox News, members of Congress and other federal employees worried about their safety in the wake of the Arizona mass shooting can always request additional security detail from the U.S. Capitol Police or the Marshals Service. But relying on local law enforcement may not be an option because of the cutbacks that are decimating cash-strapped law enforcement agencies.
Following the Giffords shooting, House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood reissued a security guide for lawmakers who have grown worried about their safety. "It is essential that each district office establish communication with local law enforcement," Livingood said in a memo sent to House members and their staff.
The memo encourages designating a law enforcement coordinator for each office. "Members participate in a tremendous assortment of events each year, throughout the United States. Experience demonstrates though that not every event requires the presence of law enforcement," the memo reads.
"However, the decision whether or not to have a law enforcement presence at any event is one best made through close liaison with the Office of the Sergeant at Arms, the U.S. Capitol Police and your local law enforcement agencies." Some lawmakers were well ahead of the memo. Freshman Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois reached out to the local sheriff to provide security at a town hall meeting.
John Firman, director of research for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, told FoxNews.com, that police chiefs will need to determine how to handle requests for extra security for lawmakers. "That could mean pulling an officer out of another unit like gangs or counter-terrorism" said Stephen Clark of Fox News.
But that's going to be a tough order to fill. According to a report by the National League of Cities, 25 percent of U.S. cities havecut their public safety budgets in the past year,. Jim Pascal, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, noted that more than 80 percent of police departments have 10 or fewer officers.
"It's important to state they're going to do what needs to be done, but it will cost an extraordinary strain and something will be left undone," Pascal said in reference to the claims by local law enforcement that they could handle the security needs of local politicians. "Monitoring, in general, is just another thing that has been placed on the plate of local and state law officials.
At the same time, robberies, car thefts, none of that is going away. So the cops have their hands full," Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations added. Johnson said overtime costs will go up and that the federal government should pick up the tab for the extra costs if the threats and violence continue over the long term.
"The individual cops and sheriffs will do whatever they're asked to do to protect elected representatives of the people, but you can't get away from the fact that it will cost a lot of time and money to do a good job and it will have to be a federal responsibility to cover that," Johnson said in the Fox interview.
But where some see danger and cost issues, others see only opportunity. Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm, who is a former law enforcement officer, says no additional money is required for security for lawmakers when they're in their districts. He says that instead, he wants to offer low-cost security awareness training for lawmakers and their staff.
"I firmly believe this training will be beneficial in various situations, from accidents and illnesses to acts of violence or terrorism," Grimm told FOX.
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