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Director’s Column: February 2013

Last month the President presented his plan to better protect our communities and our children from gun violence. His broad vision was of a multi-faceted approach that would require background checks for all gun sales, with some common sense exceptions, reinstate and strengthen the prohibition on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, make sure our schools are kept safe, and increase access to mental health services. Implementing these sorts of initiatives will require cooperation and coordination across a number of federal agencies, and I am pleased that the COPS Office will have the opportunity to play a part in the effort.

In particular, the President called on Congress to act on the administration’s $4 billion proposal to help support 15,000 cops on the streets, which was first put forward in the American Jobs Act. Obviously, any additional funding to the COPS Hiring Program would be welcome to the field, as year after year we receive more applications from agencies in need than we can reasonably meet. I, like all of you, will be waiting to see what the next budget actually brings.

Some of the proposals are more likely to shape our programs in 2014 and beyond rather than in the current year. For example, the proposal for a new Comprehensive School Safety Program to help school districts hire school resource officers and mental health professionals, as well as make other critical investments in school safety. In addition to hiring school resource officers, the Department of Justice would also be asked to develop model practices for their use. We know from our prior work with the COPS in Schools and Secure Our Schools programs that quality training and the right methods for working with students are integral to effective school resource officer programs. Used properly, school resource officers can be woven into the fabric of our schools; a part of the school community as much as any teacher or staff person. We also know that SROs alone are not the answer, but that they must be implemented in concert with other safety measures, including purchasing safety equipment, updating and training on school safety plans, conducting threat assessments, and improving our abilities to work with students in crisis.

The next steps for these ideas will be in the legislative process, and I look forward to seeing what progress is made in making these programs reality. In the meantime, the President also announced a plan for incentivizing the hiring of school resource officers within our 2013 Hiring Program. As a result, preferences will be given to agencies planning to hire school resource officers. We will be sharing more information on the 2013 program in the coming months; to keep on top of the latest developments I encourage you to not only continue reading the Dispatch, but also to regularly check our website and like us on Facebook.

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