Guest blogger – Craig T. Steckler, IACP President
We are now on our second week of the government shutdown, and it appears as if no resolution is in sight. I am not here to point blame at either party, but instead to speak about how this stalemate impacts the capabilities of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and, sadly, limits their abilities to safeguard those they were sworn to protect.
As the incident in Washington, DC demonstrated last week, federal law enforcement officers remain on the job, protecting communities around the country. However, they are doing this while not being paid and with no guarantee as to what the future holds. Yet despite this uncertainty, when the moment came, these officers reacted instantly, racing to confront the threat and to protect the public. Through their actions, they once again reaffirmed the public’s faith and trust in the law enforcement profession.
However, the shutdown has, and will continue, to negatively impact the law enforcement profession and the safety of our communities.
For example, the Department of Justice is operating with about 15% less of its workforce. This means that many of the federal employees that assist and support state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies are unavailable and their absence could impact these agencies.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) workforce is down by approximately 14%. DHS will no longer be able to operate its E-Verify program, meaning business will not be able to check on the legal immigration status of prospective employees. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be forced to suspend disaster-preparedness grants to states and localities, leaving communities vulnerable.
The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) operated by DHS and located in Georgia, closed its doors this week to the ninety-one federal law enforcement agencies and partner organizations that use the training center. Those federal agencies include the U.S. Border Patrol, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In addition to these federal law enforcement agencies, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies also send trainees to FLETC.
The hundreds of officers and agents that were attending training courses at FLETC were asked to go home, and those scheduled to begin training had to cancel plans. This will cost both the agencies that sent officers to the training facility, and those that had to cancel their travel plans.
Training at the 255th session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy has also ceased. Over 200 state, local, and International law enforcement leaders were less than one week into their 10 week training session and told that they had to go home.
In addition, the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency has been forced to furlough 70% of the intelligence community’s civilian workforce, including intelligence analysts and support staff. This means the intelligence community’s ability to identify treats and provide information will be diminished, leaving our nation more vulnerable than before the shutdown.
These are just a few examples of how this shutdown impacts the law enforcement community and as the shutdown continues, this list will undoubtedly grow. That is both unfortunate and unnecessary and needs to come to an end so law enforcement agencies can continue to deliver the services they took an oath to provide.
I am confident that regardless of how long this situation lasts, our agencies, and our officers, will continue their unceasing efforts to the safeguard the citizens of their communities and of the Nation.