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City's Growth, Federal Cuts Squeezing Police Force

By Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 10, 2005; Page C05

Proposed cuts to the federal law enforcement budget have left Frederick city police bracing for reductions in staff and services at a time when anti-terrorism efforts have already stretched both budget and staff.

The city has relied heavily on federal programs to beef up its police force for a community policing program and to train officers for homeland security. The Bush administration's proposal to cut about $1 billion from law enforcement assistance programs means police here must do more with less.

Frederick City Police Chief Kim C. Dine says an emphasis on community policing has helped drive down crime and drive up the number of calls for service. He said it's important that the department "grow appropriately." (2003 Photo Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

"Our challenges are growing, and growing rapidly," said Police Chief Kim C. Dine. "If we're unable to grow appropriately, that is a very bad recipe."

Since Dine, a veteran of the D.C. police department's command staff, was appointed in 2002, reported crime in Frederick has fallen by 14 percent. At the same time, calls for service are up 11 percent. Dine attributes both trends, in part, to the city's commitment to community policing, a law enforcement concept that stresses high visibility by uniformed officers and close cooperation among officers, city departments and residents.

But that approach requires more officers on the street.

With the help of the federal Community Oriented Policing Services program, Frederick has been able to hire 40 officers over the past decade, said Police Capt. Bryan Brown, who oversees the department's community services, patrols, planning and fiscal affairs. The federal program pays a portion of an officer's first three years' salary, after which the jurisdiction takes over.

During each of Dine's first two budget years on the job, he was able to hire seven officers and four support staff members. The department now has 135 sworn officers. During the next budget cycle, he'll lose three support staff, and for the second year running, he has no money for additional officers.

Under Bush's proposals, the program's budget is slated for a reduction of 80 percent, or $488 million, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. "As I understand it, there's a lot of redirection of the funds from COPS to homeland security," Brown said.

Homeland security creates another pressure for the Frederick police force, with additional training -- some of it federally mandated -- for a possible terrorist attack.

The Frederick department has received money for equipment since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Dine said, and has benefited from free training provided by the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. But money for staff has been lacking, even as anti-terrorism efforts and community policing duties have stretched staff.

The training presents "a whole other array of duties and responsibilities, but nobody is giving [the police] more people," Dine said. "The frustration is that, for some reason, there seems to be some division between combating terror and crime fighting. But [the two] are inextricably linked.

"We are the first line of homeland defense. It's all about identifying and arresting people."

Altogether, Bush's proposed 2006 budget would kill or slash funding to 154 law enforcement programs. The administration estimates the cuts would save $15.3 billion, with an additional $4.7 billion when proposed major changes to 16 programs are included.

Among the programs the administration proposes to scrap are nine in the Justice Department, most aimed at providing staff, technology and training to police departments. Three other programs are listed for major reductions.

"The budget process is just getting underway . . . and there's some indication that some of these funds might be restored -- but it's unclear to what level," said Gene Voegtlin, legislative counsel for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, based in Alexandria.

"This is the culmination of four bad years for law enforcement funding. Since September 11, law enforcement agencies are doing everything they can to be both anti-crime and anti-terrorism, and police have said, 'We'll do what needs to be done and worry about how to pay later.'

"Now," he said, "It's 'later.' "

In Frederick, population growth has created additional demands, even as crime has dropped. The department has outgrown its downtown headquarters, and over the next five years, the city must come up with $14 million to $20 million to build a new one.

"This is all about maintaining quality of life here," Dine said. "How much crime is acceptable?"

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