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FOP Ties Endorsements to Capitol Police Funds

The National Fraternal Order of Police has issued a mass appeal to Congressional lawmakers to secure $290 million in funds for the Capitol Police, including a pledge to tie the future endorsements of its local chapters to support for the law enforcement agency.

House and Senate appropriators are to meet as early as today in conference committee to finalize a joint version of their respective fiscal 2006 legislative branch spending bills, each of which offers the Capitol Police tens of millions of dollars less than the $290 million it had sought.

In a July 22 letter issued to all 535 House and Senate lawmakers, National FOP President Chuck Canterbury criticized proposed funding levels for the department, calling the figures “abhorrent.”

“Given the fundamental importance of this issue, we will therefore be requesting at our National Conference next month that our delegates keep track of the votes by their Members of Congress on this critical public safety issue, and consider that vote when determining who to endorse for reelection,” Canterbury wrote.

The letter did not differentiate between the House or Senate versions of the legislative branch spending bill; however, in an earlier letter, Canterbury had criticized the House legislation. That bill would provide the department $240 million in fiscal 2006, a minimal decrease over its current $241 million budget.

While the Senate version would allocate $264.6 million to the department, that figure is still well below the $290 million the Capitol Police had sought.

While it is not unusual for the union, which counts 321,000 members nationwide, to issue mass correspondence, FOP Executive Director Jim Pasco said Monday that the group is “very concerned” with the Capitol Police budget.

“This is not a routine letter,” Pasco said.

Citing a range of items in the agency’s budget — including a mounted-horse unit struck out by House appropriators — Pasco asserted there is “a lack of awareness of what it takes to make the Capitol as secure as possible” among lawmakers.

FOP officials had raised similar concerns in a June letter issued to the leadership of both the House and Senate Appropriations panels.

“They have arguably as well-qualified a Police Board and police chief and as well-trained a police force as they’ve ever had,” Pasco said. “An unwarranted assault on their ability to do their job at a time like this is astonishing.”

Pasco added: “If Members come here with the idea of weakening public safety in and around our nation’s principal monuments and institutions, then we want to do everything we can to make sure they go back home and stay there.”

In response to the letter, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee stated: “Capitol Police will be given the necessary resources. They are always fully funded.”

A spokeswoman for Sen. Wayne Allard (R), who chairs his chamber’s Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, said the Colorado lawmaker will push to ensure the budget proposed in the Senate version of the spending bill is enacted in the final legislation.

“The Capitol Police are the center piece around which all our security is designed,” said Allard spokeswoman Angela DeRocha.

A Capitol Police spokesman declined to comment Monday, citing department policy on pending legislation.

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