Just The Facts, Ma'am
The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect the reputations of the innocent.
Thursday, November 18th. My partner and I were working The Left Coaster division on a media watch detail. About 751 pm, the following story arrived over the Internet:
A day after Attorney General John Ashcroft told the nation's largest association of law enforcement executives that the Bush administration had made the nation more secure from terrorist attacks and violent criminals, the group lashed back at the White House on Tuesday.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) said that cuts by the administration in federal aid to local police agencies have left the nation more vulnerable than ever to public safety threats. The statement reflected the ongoing tension between the administration and many local police chiefs, who believe the White House has saddled them with anti-terrorism tasks without much regard to the cost.
"So whadda ya think, P?" asked my partner.
"If this is true, there won't be a much of a line at the Elephant's donut shop!"
We went downtown to check with headquarters. We didn't like what we found out - no one was manning the front desk, and the phone was ringing off the hook on all lines:
IACP President Joseph Polisar, the police chief in Garden Grove, Calif., said hundreds of police officer jobs have been lost across the nation during the past four years. And proposed cuts in federal aid in the 2005 budget could reach almost $1 billion, threatening hundreds more, the chief said.
The 20,000-member group also said in a statement that new anti-terrorism duties for local cops - which have come as state and local budgets have declined and historically low crime rates have crept upward - have pushed police agencies to "the breaking point."
"Weeelll, will ya look at this, P!" said my partner, handing me a bake sale flyer handwritten in blue crayon. "Looks like they're all out out in the parking lot holding a bake sale."
"That's got to tell you one thing," I replied.
"What's that, P?"
"At least someone is taking law enforcement funding seriously."
We took the elevator down to the parking lot, and got there just in time to hear the Chief pitching something called Brownie Badges to a bunch of Campfire Girls. They didn't buy it.
Among other things, members of the chiefs' group have long complained about localities having to pay millions of dollars in overtime costs when the U.S. government issued terrorism alerts. The group also is annoyed that President Bush is phasing out a $10 billion program begun by the Clinton administration in 1996 to help local departments hire tens of thousands more cops.
Police departments still get some of the aid, but now they must share it with fire departments and public health agencies. The money also must be spent on anti-terrorism efforts, rather than to beef up law enforcement programs or to hire more cops.
"There's one good thing about this," I said to my partner.
"What's that, P?"
"Underground parking lots don't leave much room for a soapbox."
The chiefs' group is particularly concerned about how anti-terrorism efforts have changed how police departments get federal aid. Tens of millions of dollars that in the past was sent to local departments each year by the Justice Department now are directed to the Department of Homeland Security. DHS uses the money to help train and equip agencies that would respond to terrorist attacks.
"It just goes to show you, P."
"We shoulda taken that retirement package and got out of this and got into that."
"Oh, I don't know. Who'd be left to sweep the dust out of the cells? We better get back to it before the Chief docks us for taking too long of a break."
The story you have just seen is true. Only the ending might be changed to reflect any last minute changes in funding.
Dum-de-dum-dum! Dum-de-dum-dum! Dum-de-dum-dum!
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