NAPO Washington Reports

NAPO Summits Comments to FCC Opposing Auction of Public Safety 4.9GHz Broadband Spectrum;Senator Toomey Attempts to Force Vote on Thin Blue Line Act; Bill Introduced Giving Above-the-Line Tax Deduction for Law Enforcement Officers; NAPO Backs Bill Increasing Funding for the Hiring and Retention of Officers.; NAPO Opposes Ban on Riot Control Equipment; No Movement on Stalled COVID Relief ;NAPO’s Legislative Positions & Sponsor/Cosponsor Updates;

September 18, 2020


NAPO Summits Comments to FCC Opposing Auction of Public Safety 4.9GHz Broadband Spectrum

NAPO submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding its proposal, “Expanding Access to and Investment in the 4.9 GHz Band”.  NAPO believes this proposal would negatively impact public safety communications on the 4.9 GHz Band.

Public safety was given access to the 4.9 GHz broadband spectrum in 2002, in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since then, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allocated 50 megahertz of the 4.9 GHz spectrum to public safety.  However, this Report and Order promotes expanding the use of the spectrum beyond the public safety communications for which it is currently reserved by allowing states to lease the spectrum to commercial entities.

Expanding the use of the 4.9 GHz spectrum and forcing public safety to share the band risks lowering the quality of communications and the band no longer meeting the communications needs of first responders. It goes against the intent for giving public safety the 4.9 GHz spectrum in the first place, which was to ensure first responders have interoperable communications in order that federal, state and local public safety agencies can better communicate with each other, without interference, during disasters.

Protecting public safety’s sole use of the 4.9 GHz spectrum will ensure first responders nationwide have access to the most technologically advanced communications capability so that when they are called upon to assist in a disaster, they have the tools necessary to protect our nation’s communities and themselves.   

Further, the implications of this Report and Order cannot be considered separately from the auction of the 470-512 MHz (T-Band) spectrum and the reallocation of public safety communications from that spectrum mandated by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.  While the Commission has indicated its support for permitting public safety licensees to remain on the T-Band spectrum, Congress has yet to repeal its mandated auction of that spectrum. The loss of the T-Band on top of a weakening of the 4.9 GHz spectrum would be devastating to public safety communications and threaten to reduce first responders’ communications capabilities back to pre-9/11 levels.

The Commission will be voting on the proposal during its September 30th meeting. NAPO is urging the Commission to not move forward with it and maintain the 4.9 GHz solely for the use of public safety. 

Senator Toomey Attempts to Force Vote on Thin Blue Line Act 

On September 15, in response to the senseless ambush attack on two Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs on September 12, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) tried to bring the Thin Blue Line Act (S. 1508) up for a vote on the Senate floor. In a move called a live unanimous consent vote, Senate Toomey called on his colleagues to join him in providing additional protections for officers against such acts of violence. As Senator Toomey said in his floor speech, the Thin Blue Line Act “sends a very simple and clear message: anyone who murders a law enforcement official should be prepared to pay the ultimate price.” Unfortunately, Senate Democrats blocked passage of this legislation.

The Thin Blue Line Act increases penalties on those who harm or target for harm public safety officers by making the murder or attempted murder of a local police officer, firefighter, or first responder an aggravating factor in death penalty determinations in federal court.  This would be applicable whether they were targeted or murdered on duty, because of the performance of their duty, or because of their status as a public official. The only requirement is that the homicide provide federal jurisdiction.

This bill is critical, as there is a serious and growing trend of armed attacks on law enforcement officers. According to a report from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), 87 officers were shot and 14 died in ambushes or premeditated, calculated assaults in 2019.  This trend appears to be only increasing in 2020.  NAPO has long been fighting to establish stricter penalties for those who harm law enforcement officers. The increased penalties provided under this bill will make important differences in the attitudes of criminals toward public safety officers and ensure protection for the community.

NAPO thanks Senator Toomey for standing up for law enforcement and speaking out on the need for this legislation.  We continue to press Congress to pass increased penalties for violence against officers whether it be through the Thin Blue Line Act, the Protect and Serve Act, or the Back the Blue Act.  We are also working with the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to increase federal prosecutions of violence against state and local law enforcement.  What happened in Los Angeles, in New York, in Dallas and in Baton Rouge should never happen again.

Bill Introduced Giving Above-the-Line Tax Deduction for
Law Enforcement Officers 

NAPO issued our full support for the Thank You Act (S. 4558) introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), which provides a one-time tax credit for tax year 2020 of up to $1000 and a permanent above-the-line deduction of $1,500 for law enforcement officers. For the tax credit, an officer with more than 10 years on the job can claim $1,000 and officers with less than 10 years can claim $500. For tax year 2020, officers who chose to take the tax credit are ineligible for the deduction.

Today, officers are working in an untenable environment. They are essential workers in the coronavirus pandemic, putting their health at risk to serve and protect their communities. They are on the front lines as cities and towns across the nation experience daily protests and all too frequent riots. Further, officers in our nation’s largest cities are experiencing significant increases in violent crimes – particularly gun-related crimes – that are straining the resources of departments.  They are doing all this in the face of hatred for the uniform they wear, for the laws they are bound by duty to enforce.

Further, like many public servants, law enforcement officers serve our nation and our communities for modest wages and often have to pay for mandatory and necessary equipment and resources out-of-pocket.  An officer is responsible for his or her uniform maintenance and replacement as well as uniform accessories, which averages $500 - $1000 per year. He sometimes must pay for training and professional development courses at an average of $250 per year.  This is much more than any employer has the right to ask an employee to pay out-of-pocket for things that are necessary for safely and effectively doing their job.

The Thank You Act recognizes the bravery and sacrifice the men and women in uniform make every day and we thank Senator Graham for his continued support of the law enforcement community. 

NAPO Backs Bill Increasing Funding for the Hiring and
Retention of Officers.

NAPO endorsed the David Dorn Back the Blue Act (S. 4543), introduced by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), which would provide $15 billion to state and local law enforcement agencies for the hiring and retention of officers.  This funding could also be used to augment officer salaries up to 110 percent of the State real median household income of the preceding year.

State and local governments big and small are struggling with budget holes and significant revenue losses due to the coronavirus pandemic and the steps that had to be taken to protect the public. As a result, police departments across the country have told their officers that department civilian staff are being furloughed and laid off and that they will be next for furlough and layoffs.  This is at a time when law enforcement agencies are stretched to their limits between the impact of the virus on police forces, the ongoing protests, and rising violent crime rates across the country. 

This legislation would provide much needed aid to state and local law enforcement agencies to hire new officers and retain qualified and experienced officers in order that they can ensure our communities remain safe as they face budget constraints or even budget cuts. NAPO thanks Senator Hawley for his continued support for America’s law enforcement and we look forward to working with him to pass this important legislation.

NAPO Opposes Ban on Riot Control Equipment

NAPO opposes the No Tear Gas or Projectiles Act, S. 4114, as introduced by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), which would ban the use of riot control agents by law enforcement and penalize the officers who use them. While the bill currently does not have any cosponsors and has little chance of moving this Congress, cities and states across the country have made or are considering similar bans of law enforcement’s use of tear gas and rubber bullets that put officers and the communities they service at risk.

For the past four months, law enforcement agencies have had officers work double shifts and overtime on the front lines as cities and towns across the nation experience daily protests. While some of protests have been peaceful, many have spiraled into violent riots with instigators throwing projectiles at officers, starting fires, and destroying businesses and property.  The use of riot control options such as rubber projectiles and tear gas is often absolutely necessary to protect officers, citizens and property from escalating violence and loss.

By banning the use of these tools and penalizing officers for using them, this bill puts our members’ lives in danger. These riot control agents allow officers to avoid toe-to-toe confrontations as they try to quell riots and aid in deescalating violent situations. This legislation is short sighted and will have negative consequences that will impact public safety.

No Movement on Stalled COVID Relief 

With negotiations between the White House and Democratic leadership still stalled, a bipartisan group of representatives that call themselves the Problem Solvers Caucus, introduced a compromise bill that would provide $1.5 trillion in coronavirus relief aid, including $500 billion for state and local governments. Democratic leaders responded by calling the proposal inadequate and saying it falls well short of the assistance needed. While the White House responded favorably to the bill, Senate and House Republicans indicated that the price tag is too high to get a majority of Republican support.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has only been able to unite his caucus behind $500 billion in total COVID aid, with no additional funding for state and local governments.

NAPO continues to press Congressional leaders to include additional, flexible economic assistance to state and local governments in this next aid package. State and local aid continues to be a major sticking point in negotiations. While the Administration has moved from opposing providing any new funding to state and local governments to being willing to provide some, Democrats say their offer falls far short of what is needed.  Republicans have also offered to create flexibility for the use of existing aid, allowing it to be used to make up for revenue shortfalls and extending the date for using that aid. Flexibility with currently available funding would certainly be helpful, but it is not enough to stave off the significant budget cuts that state and local governments will soon be forced to make.  Public safety will not be immune to these cuts and that will put our communities at risk.

Congress is scheduled take up a continuing resolution next week to ensure the federal government does not shut down at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, but it is not expected that any COVID-related aid will be included in the package. Democratic leadership has indicated they will not leave town until a deal on a relief package is made. It is likely that after Congress passes the continuing resolution to fund the government for the next few months, most lawmakers will leave town to campaign before the November elections, but will be called back to vote on a deal if it happens.

We will keep our members updated on the latest as these negotiations continue.

NAPO’s Legislative Positions & Sponsor/Cosponsor Updates 

NAPO’s updated “Sponsor/Cosponsor” spreadsheet is available at the following link: http://www.napo.org/washington-report/sponsor-cosponsor-spreadsheet/. The spreadsheet accompanies the latest “Legislative Positions” document, which is available at the following link: http://www.napo.org/washington-report/legislative-priorities/. NAPO's Legislative Positions is a document that highlights all the legislation that we have taken an official position on or are monitoring during the 116th Congress. It is continually updated to reflect the work we are doing on Capitol Hill.

The “Sponsor/Cosponsor” spreadsheet is a useful tool to check if your members of Congress have supported pieces of legislation that will impact our members. NAPO updates this spreadsheet regularly and continues to ensure our voice is heard on Capitol Hill.

 

 

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