This past week FOP representatives from across the nation flew to Washington DC for the annual “Day on the Hill” event where the FOP’s national legislative agenda is discussed with members of the House and Senate. With 300,000+ members nationwide, a lobby presence, and state and national legislative offices, the FOP is often able to gain support for, and advance legislation that benefits those who serve this nation in law enforcement and public safety generally.
Fraternal Order of Police Louisiana representatives included Darrel Basco, State President; Patrick Yoes, National Secretary; Dawn Powell, State Legislative Committee Chair; James Gallagher, Secretary-Treasurer; and myself, Jacob Lundy, Policy Chairman. Meetings throughout the week included Congressman John Flemming (R); Congressman Charles Boustany (R); Congressman Cedric Richmond (D); Senator Bill Cassidy (R); Senator David Vitter (R); Congressman Steve Scalise (R); Congressman Ralph Abraham (R), and Congressman Garrett Graves (R).
The 2016 FOP national legislative agenda was discussed throughout the week (details below), however FOP Louisiana and FOP New Orleans would like to point out that the murder of Officer Ashley Guindon in nearby Prince William County Virginia on February 27 during her first day on the job dominated talk in Washington and FOP addressed the anti-law enforcement climate around the nation and its effects on public safety with all members of congress from the beginning.
All representatives were predictably alarmed and engaged on this topic and pledged their support in helping to guide discourse in a reasonable and constructive direction, both in Washington and via national media. Our representatives also openly acknowledged their concern over what appears to be a national police recruiting drought with growing vacancies and increasing delays in calls for help as a result of the current climate.
I should make special mention here that each and every member of Congress personally sent their sincere thanks to the men and women of Louisiana law enforcement who continue to serve their communities day in and day out.
Candid discussions of public safety, criminal justice, and law enforcement specific issues took place during the week with members of congress, many of whom sought FOP’s input on their own agenda items currently underway (body cameras, sentencing reform, opiate/opioid legislation, etc).
FOP’s national legislative agenda for 2016 included the following items of note for Louisiana members;
- H.R. 973/S. 1651 the “Social Security Fairness Act,” FOP sought and received considerable support for restoring full social security benefits for law enforcement officers who pay into social security via details and additional side-employment throughout their careers but are denied full benefits at retirement
- Enact S. 125/H.R. 228 to reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program which would provide for matching federal funds in purchasing body armor for state and local law enforcement
- Support for restoration of the Department of Defense 1033 Surplus Equipment Program. As everyone knows, a single media event resulted in the knee-jerk decision to kill the 1033 program which provides demilitarized equipment to state and local law enforcement; equipment most commonly used to rescue victims of natural disasters or respond to active shooter scenarios – most recently to safely neutralize two well-armed terrorists in San Bernardino following a mass casualty shooting
- Full funding of the COPS hiring and other grant programs
- Full funding of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) Programs
All national agenda items received overwhelming support from our representatives, many of whom requested follow-up from the FOP’s national legislative office in Washington DC.
In addition to scheduled agenda items, Jim Gallagher and Jacob Lundy were asked to meet with Congressman Cedric Richmond outside of the in-progress House Judiciary Committee hearing on the FBI-Apple debate where we provided input to Congressman Richmond on FOP’s general position as well our direct experience negotiating such obstacles in the course of major felony investigations, namely homicides. Our discussion with Congressman Richmond may be seen on Canal+ television. It is worth noting just after our meeting with Congressman Richmond at the House Judiciary Committee hearing that East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore was scheduled to testify on the murder of Brittney Mills, 29, pregnant at the time of her murder, and whose case may hinge on the contents of an Apple product currently inaccessible to law enforcement.
FOP also discussed and voiced opposition to the recently published Police Executive Research Forum’s paper Use of Force: Taking Policing to a Higher Standard, which, among other items, seeks to abandon 30 years of guiding Supreme Court jurisprudence on the objective reasonableness standard established in Graham v. Connor. While FOP pointed out that the paper contains some items all can agree on, and that law enforcement has and always will strive to improve training – the idealism in the PERF document reflects just how untenable law enforcement employment has become. The PERF document and discussions on its premise highlight the ever growing trend of ignoring social issues until they must be confronted by law enforcement, often during violent encounters, only to have law enforcement take the blame for decades of social neglect by all other stakeholders.
Overall, FOP representatives nationwide, including Louisiana, described 2016’s Day on the Hill as very productive and engaging. Law enforcement and pubic safety generally were very much on the agenda in Washington DC, a city which has lost 800 police officers since 2014 and saw a 50% increase in homicides through 2015. All parties however expressed their commitment to turning that phenomenon around in future.
FOP Louisiana and FOP New Orleans would like to thank the following for their support during 2016’s Day on the Hill;
- All members of Congress listed above, as well as their respective legislative staff members
- Chuck Canterbury, FOP National President
- Andy Maybo, Capitol Police Department, President FOP Lodge 1 Washington DC
- All members of the Capitol Police Department
- Josh Hodges, National Security Policy Advisor – Senator Vitter
- Jim Pasco, Executive Director FOP Legislative Office, Washington DC
- Robert Jenkins, President William Nichols Lodge 8, Miami FL
- Captain David Bernhardt, FOP West Palm Beach FL