This week, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., saw two bills she has championed clear the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee.
Last week, Demings teamed up with U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., “Homeland Security Capabilities Preservation Act.”
The bill would have the U.S. Department of Homeland Security “review past disbursements under the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), then to create a plan to continue federal anti-terrorism support for UASI-funded homeland security capabilities that keep people safe in these communities”
Demings, who served more than 25 years in law enforcement and rose to become Orlando’s police chief, noted that Orlando, Tampa and Miami/Fort Lauderdale are UASI grant recipients.
“Keeping Americans safe from all threats, both foreign and domestic, is a top priority of mine. I’m glad to help lead this effort alongside Rep. Demings to direct DHS and FEMA to assess UASI capabilities and ensure federal assistance is made available for these anti-terrorism law enforcement programs, especially in urban areas, which are potential targets for terrorist attacks. In fact, Omaha had not received UASI funds since FY2010, leaving our community more vulnerable and unprotected. As a retired brigadier general and Air Force veteran, I believe that if another terrorist attack like 9/11, a natural disaster, or worldwide pandemic occurs, our first responders, non-profits, and other public safety personnel must be equipped to protect our citizens and preserve our communities,” Bacon said.
The Fraternal Order of Police, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors and the National Fusion Center Association are all backing the proposal.
The bill cleared the committee this week.
“The safety and security of every person who lives, works, and travels in Florida is my top priority. Our previous experience in Orlando showed that critical public safety funding can be inconsistent, leaving important programs without necessary support. This new legislation would provide much-needed stability and peace of mind to emergency planners across Florida, who will rest easier knowing that when they begin a new initiative to keep Floridians safe, they will be able to sustain those efforts,” Demings said.
“The UASI program has been one of my top priorities since arriving in Congress and I am proud of the work we have done to restore Orlando to the list and ensure that we can prevent violence – or at least be ready to save lives when the worst should happen. As a former law enforcement officer, I have seen firsthand how important these federal dollars are, and I will continue working to ensure that every Florida community has what’s needed to keep every Floridian safe,” she added.
The bill now heads to the House floor but there is currently no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.
The committee also passed Demings’ bill “to require that all officer training programs for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) receive accreditation to ensure a high standard of excellence for officers tasked to protect America.”
According to the congresswoman’s office, the bill “would require regular reporting by the Secretary of Homeland Security to Congress on the accreditation status of each of the Department’s basic training programs” and “for those programs that are not accredited, the secretary must provide the reasons for not obtaining or maintaining accreditation, the activities, if any, taken to achieve accreditation, and the anticipated timeline for accreditation of the program.”
Demings’ office also offered some of the reasons for her proposal.
“Unfortunately, several DHS law enforcement basic training programs are not accredited; the most notable unaccredited programs are the U.S. Border Patrol Academy, Customs and Border Protection’s Field Operations Academy Officer Basic Training Program, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Officer Basic Training Program. In some cases, programs have been unaccredited for several years. For example, the Border Patrol Academy submitted an initial application in 2006 but did not pursue accreditation further,” the congresswoman’s office noted.
“Protecting our safety and security is my top priority. As a former 27-year law enforcement officer and chief of police, I have seen that training saves lives. When it comes to keeping Americans safe, I believe we have no room for error. The officers at the Department of Homeland Security deserve the highest standards of training and preparation so that they can safely and effectively carry out their mission,” Demings said as her bill cleared the committee.
The bill now heads to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.