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WASHINGTON

Rep. John Katko eyes renewal of federal police grant program, more help for rural agencies

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Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., speaks during a House Committee on Homeland Security meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington July 22, 2020.

U.S. Rep. John Katko is seeking the reauthorization of a federal program to assist police departments and a change that would help law enforcement agencies in rural areas access the funding. 

Katko, R-Camillus, has introduced legislation to renew the Community Oriented Policing Services program for 10 years through 2031. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice. Since the creation of the department's COPS office in 1994, it has provided more than $14 billion to support police departments. 

While the bill would reauthorize the program for the next decade, it would also update it to ensure that rural police departments can obtain grants for hiring police officers. Katko explained that this funding can be used to increase wages for police officers. 

"Since the COPS program was launched, local police departments have received funding to bolster training, purchase life-saving protective equipment, and expand community policing initiatives," said Katko, who is the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. "As a former organized crime prosecutor, I worked alongside police officers and saw firsthand the good the COPS program does. It is vital to keeping our police officers and the communities they serve safe." 

Katko introduced the bill with two other members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, a South Carolina Republican, and U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat. 

The reauthorization of the COPS program is supported by several national law enforcement organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. It also has been endorsed by two of the top law enforcement officials in central New York. 

Onondaga County Sheriff Eugene Conway and Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner issued statements in support of Katko's bill. Buckner noted that Syracuse has benefited from the COPS program — the city has used the funding to hire and train police officers. Conway added that the need for the program is "critical now and going forward." 

"As someone who has worked at the village, town and county level of policing in this community, the COPS program has been the most beneficial program at the federal level that supports law enforcement," Conway added. "Less funding for police departments is not the answer at this time, as we are being called upon to service calls well beyond normal expectations." 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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