NAPO Participates in DOJ Meeting to Discuss Specifications on “Smart Gun” Technology for Law Enforcement; NAPO in the News: Boston Globe Publishes NAPO’s Letter to the Editor Regarding Anti-Cop Editorial Cartoon; NAPO in the News; NAPO on the Hill: Meeting with Rep. Pascrell on Social Security Reform; NAPO on the Hill: Meetings with Senate Leadership on PSOB Reform; NAPO on the Hill: Meeting with Rep. Poe on Judiciary Priorities; Bureau of Justice Statistics Looks to Implement Changes to Deaths in Custody Reporting ProgramAugust 22, 2016
NAPO Participates in DOJ Meeting to Discuss Specifications on “Smart Gun” Technology for Law Enforcement
On August 17th, NAPO Executive Director Bill Johnson participated in a convening of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies by the National Institute of Justice, which is the research agency of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs. NAPO was the only rank-and-file organization participating in the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to review and discuss draft baseline specifications for user-authentication (or “smart gun”) technology for law enforcement service firearms.
In January of this year, President Obama issued a memorandum to the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security directing them to promote the use of smart gun technology as a way to reduce gun violence. In response, the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS) and Defense (DOD) submitted a joint report to the President in April outlining a strategy to expedite deployment of smart gun technology. The report described the potential benefits of advanced gun safety technology, but noted that additional work was required before this technology is ready for widespread adoption by law enforcement agencies. In particular, the report stressed the importance of integrating this technology into a firearm’s design without compromising the reliability, durability, and accuracy that officers expect from their service weapons.
To address these issues, DOJ and DHS recently assembled a working group of experts in firearms technology to identify operational needs and draft baseline specifications to help law enforcement adopt and use smart gun technology. The idea is that these baseline specifications would outline the agencies’ operational requirements for any firearms equipped with smart gun technology and could be used to make clear to private manufacturers what agencies expect from this technology.
During the meeting, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies reviewed and discussed the draft specifications, focusing on several potential issues that agencies will have to consider if they develop these specifications. These issues include: reliability, durability, permitting multiple users, ease and predictability of use, cost, training, and physical characteristics of the firearm. NAPO and other meeting participants strongly pushed back on the need for agencies to adopt smart gun technology as there is no data that proves that this technology will help reduce gun violence. Further, the technology is not readily available or fully vetted, and the costs of purchasing such technology are great and would take funding away from other essential programs and initiatives.
It is evident that the Administration recognizes that smart gun technology has been of little to no interest in the private sector and to private purchasers of firearms, so they are trying to create a market by fiat in the military and law enforcement sectors. It is worth noting that the draft baseline specifications are limited to pistols that are semi-automatic, recoil-operated, magazine-fed, striker-fired, and fire 9 mm Luger or .40 S&W ammunition.
Johnson underscored the point that there is no demand for this technology, but the Administration wants to create a market for it so it can say that it has done something to combat gun violence and it is doing this on the backs of rank-and-file officers. NAPO believes it is immoral to ask the men and women on the streets to be guinea pigs for untested technology and put their lives at further risk just to support a growth in the market for smart guns. The smart gun technology currently available is very limited and is mainly fingerprint technology, which will not work for officers who endure a variety of conditions on the street that would impede this technology.
The second point Johnson made was regarding the baseline specifications around device security. During a use of force situation, the officer is under great stress and will have selective attention. The security device on the gun should not increase sensory input for the officer at a moment of such intensity. When an officer’s life and the lives of innocent bystanders are at risk, the workings of an officer’s service weapon should not be an added stress.
The baseline specifications will be revised based on the feedback that NAPO and the participating organizations provide at the convening. Despite protests from meeting participants that the Administration should not push this technology on agencies, DOJ, DHS and DOD intend to release a final version of the baseline specifications by October 15, 2016 for federal, state and local agencies to use.
After the final version of the baseline specifications are published the next step – as outlined by the Administration – is “voluntary commitments” by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. As part of that commitment, the agency would be obligated to conduct small officer pilot programs in which the agency purchases firearms equipped with smart gun technology for a select group of officers to use. Agencies who allow officers to select their preferred service weapon from a list of approved firearms manufacturers would also commit to adding the firearm to the approved purchase list. The DOJ has committee to make Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) funds available to help agencies purchase smart guns.
NAPO is concerned that the Administration will be using Byrne-JAG to push agencies to adopt smart gun technology. Although agencies can currently use Byrne-JAG funding to purchase firearms for their officers, it became evident at this meeting that the Administration would prioritize funding for the purchase of these firearms. Byrne-JAG funds many essential programs for state and local law enforcement and there are many competing priorities for the limited funding. Agencies should not be forced to choose adopting smart gun technology over purchasing safety gear for their officers or participating in a gang or drug task force. NAPO will work to ensure that critical Byrne-JAG funding is not usurped to pay for this pilot.
Below are links to the documents discussed at the meeting as well as the President’s Memorandum directing DOJ and DHS to pursue this technology.
Presidential Memorandum, Promoting Smart Gun Technology
Report to the President Outlining a Strategy to Expedite Deployment of Gun Safety Technology
Draft Baseline Specifications for Law Enforcement Service Pistols with Security Technology
If you have any questions about this meeting, please contact Bill Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NAPO in the News: Boston Globe Publishes
NAPO’s Letter to the Editor Regarding Anti-Cop Editorial Cartoon
On August 17th, the Boston Globe published NAPO’s Letter to the Editor condemning an anti-cop editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich that the newspaper ran on August 15th:
“On behalf of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), representing over 241,000 law enforcement officers across the country, I am writing to you to express our serious concerns with the Mike Luckovich editorial cartoon published in the Boston Globe today.
The cartoon depicts two white police officers, showing “Miranda Rights” for white people, and “Last Rites” for black people. This cartoon is offensive and anti-police. By publishing this cartoon, the Boston Globe is supporting the falsehood that all police are racist and aiming to use force against African Americans. By promoting this opinion, you are further endangering officers on the street, officers who put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities. The Dallas and Baton Rouge shooters were inspired by such anti-police rhetoric.
While NAPO supports an individual’s right to free speech, we do not support speech that condemns an entire community for the acts of a few. You should be ashamed of publishing Mr. Luckovich’s cartoon and the hate that it endorses.
William J. Johnson, Esq., CAE
The Letter to the Editor is available at: https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/letters/2016/08/16/wrong-blame-community-for-actions-few-individuals/22qaTVrLKzODH1N7uZzB8H/story.html
NAPO will continue to ensure our members’ voices are heard loud and clear on the Hill, with the Administration, and in the media. If you have any questions about the publication cited above, please contact Bill Johnson at: email@example.com.
NAPO in the News
On August 16th, NAPO Executive Director Bill Johnson was interviewed for a Washington Times article entitled, “Black Lives Matter cashes in with $100 million from liberal foundations”. The article focused on the recently announced formation of the “Black-Led Movement Fund”, a six-year campaign by the Ford Foundation and Borealis Philanthropy that aims to raise $100 million for Black Lives Matter and support its policy platform.
“Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said corporations and others may want to think twice about partnering with the Ford Foundation, the fifth-largest U.S. philanthropy with $12.4 billion in assets.
‘The Ford Foundation has traditionally been leftist, at least since the 1970s, on law-enforcement matters. So it’s not a huge surprise, but it’s certainly disappointing,’ said Mr. Johnson. ‘I guess potential donors may want to look at the [Black Lives Matter] movement and see the damage, destruction and murders that they’ve left in their wake.’
‘I think whoever’s in charge of vetting a grant like that didn’t do their homework,’ said Mr. Johnson. ‘Or maybe this was already in the works before they realized what exactly they were dealing with before this platform came out—before it became more apparent that it’s become today’s Velcro for what the leftist-fringe movement desires.’
And that’s a shame, he said, ‘because instead of having a serious movement that might have been a basis for dialogue and improving relations in communities, especially communities of color, it’s kind of become in some ways a very violent movement, in some ways a very, very far-left [movement] with an almost statist agenda.’”
The full article is available at: http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/aug/16/black-lives-matter-cashes-100-million-liberal-foun/
NAPO on the Hill: Meeting with Rep. Pascrell
on Social Security Reform
NAPO’s governmental affairs director meet with Congressman Bill Pacrell’s (D-NJ) staff to discuss the Equal Treatment for Public Servants Act (H.R. 711) and the amendments to the bill the Congressman has sponsored.
H.R. 711 would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), replacing it with a new Social Security benefit formula designed to more accurately account for years a public employee paid into Social Security versus the years paid into a public pension system in a non-Social Security covered position.
As a result of the formula change, the Social Security actuary has projected that the majority of current retirees impacted by the WEP would see roughly one-third of their benefit restored. However, there would still be a minority of public safety officers who have more than 30 years paying into Social Security who would see their benefits cut under this new formula. Congressman Pascrell sponsored amendments, which NAPO supports, which would address this issue by ensuring no public safety officer is negatively impacted by the formula change.
The sponsor of H.R. 711, Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), opposes these amendments as he believes they would cost too much. NAPO met with Chairman Brady’s staff at the beginning of August to discuss our support for H.R. 711 as well as the reasoning behind our support for Congressman Pascrell’s amendments. In that meeting, Chairman Brady’s staff indicated that they are working on a possible compromise that would ensure a greater majority of public safety officers benefit under the new formula.
Congressman Pascrell’s staff indicated that Chairman Brady has not reached out to discuss any compromise on his amendments, but that the Congressman is supportive of a compromise as long as it adequately addresses the concerns of the public safety community and a vast majority of officers benefit by the new formula. NAPO is committed to working with the Chairman and Congressman Pascrell to ensure that this bill moves forward as it is the first bill in the over 30 years that we have been fighting the WEP that has a considerable chance of passing.
NAPO on the Hill: Meetings with Senate Leadership
on PSOB Reform
NAPO met with staff of Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) as well as staff of Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) to discuss the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Improvement Act. This bill would improve transparency and accountability within the PSOB Program and address the current 1,000-plus claims backlog.
NAPO is working to ensure that the Senate quickly takes up and passes the PSOB Improvement Act when it returns from recess after Labor Day. Right before the Senate adjourned for recess in July, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) attempted to hotline the bill, or expedite the clearance process to ensure the bill’s passage when it was called up for a vote. While there were no issues with the bill on the Republican side, several Democrats put a hold on the bill, stopping it from quickly clearing the Senate. Holds are anonymous, so no one knows who has put a stop to a bill unless they speak out.
NAPO is meeting with key democratic senators, including democratic leadership, to make certain that whatever issues were had with the bill have been cleared up and we can successfully hotline the bill as soon as Congress returns in September.
NAPO on the Hill: Meeting with Rep. Poe on Judiciary Priorities
NAPO met with senior staff in Congressman Ted Poe’s (R-TX) office to discuss the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Improvement Act and the Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship Act. Congressman Poe is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over these two bills. This meeting is one of many meetings NAPO is doing with members of the Committee to discuss the importance of these two bills to our members and how it is a priority for us to pass these bills before the November election.
While NAPO is working to ensure that the Senate quickly takes up and passes the PSOB Improvement Act, we need to make certain that this bill has the support of a majority of the House Judiciary Committee so that when it does pass the Senate, it will move just as quickly through the House. The Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship Act, on the other hand, passed the Senate in May and has been sitting with the Committee. NAPO is focused on securing support for the bill so that it too can move through committee in September. It would qualify the children of public safety officers who died in the line of duty for the maximum award for Pell Grants and eliminate any expected family contributions.
Congressman Poe’s staff stated that he is supportive of the two bills and that he stands ready to help NAPO move them through the Committee. The Congressman is also a member of the House Working Group on Policing Strategies and his staff indicated that he will work to ensure that rank-and-file officers’ voices are heard in the discussion around police reform. The Working Group is not scheduled to meet again until after Congress returns from recess.
NAPO continues to work with Committee members and House leadership to make certain these bills are taken up and passed by the Committee when Congress returns in September.
Bureau of Justice Statistics Looks to Implement Changes
to Deaths in Custody Reporting Program
On August 4th, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) within the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a proposed rule to implement changes to its Deaths in Custody Reporting Program made by the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013, a bill which NAPO opposed.
The Deaths in Custody Reporting Program (DCRP), developed in 2000, required state and local prisons, jails, and law enforcement agencies to report information about in-custody deaths and deaths occurring in the process of arrest to the DOJ. State reporting coordinators were responsible for reporting all applicable deaths in their state, but an assessment of the program found inconsistency in reporting and not every state was complying with the reporting requirements.
The Deaths in Custody Reporting Act of 2014 looked to fix that issue by mandating states that receive Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) funding to report to the DOJ information required by the DCRP regarding the death of any person who is detained, arrested, en route to incarceration, or incarcerated in state or local facilities or a boot camp prison. If the state fails to comply with the reporting requirements the DOJ will reduce the state’s allocated Byrne-JAG funding by 10 percent.
In addition to mandating the reporting and the Byrne-JAG penalty, the proposed rule makes changes to the methodology the BJS uses to collect the data. The BJS is proposing to use open sources (such as Google) to identify eligible cases for the DCRP, followed by data requests to law enforcement agencies and medical examiner/coroner offices for incident-specific information about the decedent and circumstances surrounding the event. In addition to this data collection, state and local agencies and medical examiner/coroner offices will be required to submit an annual report on deaths in custody for 2016 and starting in 2017, submit quarterly reports.
Law enforcement agencies will have to collect and submit to the DOJ the following data:
(a) Identifying information, law enforcement agency involved, state, decedent name, date/time of death.
(b) Location of incident.
(c) Decedent demographics.
(d) Precipitating events, reason for initial contact, did decedent commit or allegedly commit any crimes.
(e) Decedent behavior during the incident, barricade, threaten, assault, escape; exhibit mental health problems or appear to be intoxicated; possess or appear to possess a weapon; use a weapon to threaten or assault; attempt to injure officers or others.
(f) Law enforcement actions during the incident, engage in pursuit or restraint tactics; use of force; if firearm discharged, how many shots fired; number of officers and LEAs that responded top incident.
(g) Manner of death.
The full proposed rule can be found at: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/08/04/2016-18484/agency-information-collection-activities-proposed-collection-comments-requested-new-collection#furinf
NAPO will keep our members up to date on the proposed rule as it makes its way through the regulatory process. If you have any questions, please contact Andy Edmiston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please monitor NAPO’s website, www.napo.org, and Facebook page: National Association of Police Organizations, and follow us on Twitter at NAPOpolice for breaking news and updates.