On a day when the president unveiled proposals he said will help curb gun violence, one U.S. senator speaking in York said the federal government needs to devote more resources to local law enforcement.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at city hall that several federal initiatives, including the Community Oriented Policing Services program, are underfunded. More money for that program, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant and a federal initiative to buy bulletproof vests would help police fight gun-related crimes, he said.
Casey provided numbers indicating that the funding for each program is off from previous years.
"I'd like to find someone in Washington who can explain to me why $6 million was cut from the bulletproof vest program," he said. "How does that help?"
Police Chief Wes Kahley said the city has used each of the three programs in the past. He said the community policing program has been key to better police coverage in city neighborhoods.
"It's at our core," he said. "It's how we believe crime can be addressed."
In fall of 2010, York city was awarded a $911,800 grant from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to be used for hiring officers for community policing efforts. The money was to pay salaries and benefits for five officers over three years.
Those officers would be involved in community policing,
Michael O'Rourke, city business manager, said after Wednesday's meeting that he's not concerned about any future funding issues from the community policing program. O'Rourke said because of funding flexibility in the program, and because of the relatively high attrition rate in city officers, there hasn't been a budget problem from the program.
"It's been a lot less burdensome than expected," he said. "Over time, I've been less opposed to it. I've come to support it."
About an hour earlier, President Barack Obama spoke in Washington, D.C., unveiling sweeping proposals for curbing gun violence, according to the Associated Press.
Obama urged Congress to pass universal background checks, as well as bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines such as the ones used in the Sandy Hook shooting, the AP reported. The president also used his presidential powers to enact almost two dozen measures that don't require lawmakers' backing, a move that drew the ire of some Republicans.
In York, Casey urged patience and prudence from both lawmakers and the public, asking that opinions be rendered only after careful review of the president's proposal. Casey said that in the wake of the Connecticut shooting, more than ever measured action is needed
"No one is talking about infringing on the right of someone to have a weapon to protect themselves," he said. But "we've got to try to do something here. We can't just shrug our shoulders."