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Law Enforcement: Senate Votes to Restore Byrne Drug Task Force Funding Program

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #528)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

The US Senate voted last Friday to restore funding to the federal grant program that pays for the multi-jurisdictional state and local anti-drug task forces that roam the land enforcing the drug laws. The Bush administration's Fiscal Year 2009 budget had zeroed out appropriations for the program, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program.

Funded at $520 million in Fiscal Year 2007, the two-decade old program that allows states to supplement their anti-drug spending with federal tax dollars was already down substantially from previous funding levels. For the past three years, as a cost-cutting move, the Bush administration has tried to zero it out completely, but that has proven extremely unpopular with Congress. In December, as it sought to pass the FY 2008 budget, the House voted to fund the block grant portion of the program at $600 million and the Senate at $660 million, but in last-minute budget negotiations, the White House insisted the funding be cut.

For FY 2009, the Bush administration again zeroed out appropriations for the JAG program, instead allocating $200 million for a combined federal grants program. But it is up against a powerful law enforcement lobby that has mobilized to restore funding. Democrat politicians eager to appear "tough on crime" have been especially vulnerable to such appeals.

It was two Democrats, Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Diane Feinstein of California, along with Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who cosponsored an amendment to the 2009 budget that would fund the Byrne JAG program at $906 million, far above the levels of recent years.

"Day in and day out, communities depend on our law enforcement professionals to keep them safe and be fully prepared to respond in emergencies," Feingold said. "The dedicated service they provide cannot happen without support from the federal government. We must provide adequate funding for successful programs like the COPS program and the Byrne program in order to provide the tools, technology, and training our law enforcement professionals need to protect our communities," he said.

"Unfortunately, the president's proposal to cut funding for these successful crime-fighting programs is nothing new," Feingold said. "Congress has rightly rejected the President's cuts to these programs in the past, and I'm working with my colleagues to include this critical funding in the 2009 budget."

Despite the demagoguery and the Senate vote, a reinvigorated Byrne JAG grant program is not yet a done deal. The House must also vote to approve funding, and if the White House follows the direction it has taken in recent years, it will once again oppose any expansive new funding -- as it successfully did in December.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

You know you're in trouble when you're counting on the Bush administration to nix drug enforcement pork spending.

Fri, 03/21/2008 - 3:12pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The following quote I feel is appropriate for task-forces in general. Here in Floresville TX, home of the 181st Judicial Task Force, there is only more of the same behavior by the law enforcement that was left in place. Civil Liberties and Civil Rights extend only to those that are chosen.

The defendant(181st Judicial Task Force) wants to hide the truth because he's generally guilty. The defense attorney's job (local D.A. Rene Pena) is to make sure the jury does not arrive at that truth.
-------Alan Dershowitz

I.e. 14 year old child used as "Drug Informant" dead at 16 as a direct result of his contact with Floresvile TX P.D. No charges levied against the officers.

28 cases of testilying and false inprisonment by task force officer Robert Villareal.

72-pounds of cocaine that task force officers stole and has never been recovered.

You be the judge and let your conscience be your guide, because these are all facts, look them up, they are easy to find.

And remember? Be careful for what we ask for.

Fri, 03/21/2008 - 9:51pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Another reason why the democrats, who describe themselves as being progressive and "feeling our pain" are such a bunch of mealy-mouthed weasels. It was a democrat, the infamous Tip O'neil, who was responsible for some of the most treacherous drug legislation and as the article points out, for the smarmy reason that they don't want to be perceived as "being soft on crime". Even Maxine Waters, who should know better, signed onto a Jesse Helms, that's right, Jesse Helms anti-drug bill that is a model for the destruction of civil rights of the citizens of this country who are continually told they have dominion over their person. This sort of thing will more than likely continue even if Barack Obama, who admitted to drug use, is elected. As the late, great writer Kurt Vonnegut might have said, "and so it goes".

Sat, 03/22/2008 - 1:24am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

A sign of the times: they're so desperate they're open about it: "Operation Byrne Blitz"? Not even a hint of shame at pandering? How crass and in-your-face can you get?

Evidently not enough; expect more of this as the budgetary belt tightenings across the country cause State governments to turn out empty pockets when told to cough up for pet DrugWarrior programs like this one. And these 'grants' are themselves on the Fed chopping block, as Bush Junior has made clear. It's 'guns or butter' time, and it's becoming increasingly clear that the DrugWar can no longer be spot-welded to the Global War on Terror as some wonks at DEAWatch had urged be done to save their meal tickets before the girders of the Twin Towers had stopped glowing red. The rich man isn't rich any more, and can't afford his expensive what the DrugWar represents, compared to national priorities. Time for some hard decisions...

Mon, 03/24/2008 - 8:34am Permalink
Concerned Citi… (not verified)

The saying goes, 'Follow the money," and this is what this funding has done. Funding of this magnitude only allowed for innocence minorities to be convicted of crimes for which they did not commit. There are aledge abuses of power and misconduct surrounding the access of money funded by the federal government to apprehend vulnerable people. Take for instance the facts known about the TX town, DA, law enforcement officials, and others in how they were accused of misconduct by the ACLU when they were falsely convicting innocence minorities just to gain access of the funding.

I could not believe this was going on in America. I am angry to learn of this.

Wed, 12/30/2009 - 11:40am Permalink

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