Law enforcement tech funding OK'd

The House and Senate last week approved $250 million in funding for law enforcement technology as part of the $39 billion fiscal 2000 appropriations bill that funds the departments of Commerce, Justice and State.

The $250 million compromise bill, approved during a House/Senate conference, comes after the original House version of the bill proposed taking $60 million from a trust fund to bankroll the high-tech projects and the Senate version earmarked $350 million for the effort.

According to the conference report, $130 million will be used for the Crime Identification Technology Program, which was born out of the 1998 Crime Identification Technology Act. The act established a five-year, $1.25 billion grant program for state and local governments to help local communities participate in national crime databases and improve crime laboratories.

Congress also included specific language in the report that outlined various uses for the money, including upgrades to criminal history and criminal justice record systems; improved management of criminal justice identification, such as fingerprint-based systems; integration of national, state and local systems for criminal justice purposes; and development of multijurisdictional, multiagency communications systems.

U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), a former prosecutor, championed the bill, which gained House and Senate approval Oct. 22. "It is crucial [that] the dedicated men and women who are on the front line of crime-fighting efforts have access to advanced technology," DeWine said. "Crimes today are being committed with the use of technology, so it only makes sense that they be solved with advanced technology."

The bill also provides funding for two $7.5 million grants that cover individual state efforts in high-tech law enforcement. Kentucky received a grant for a statewide law enforcement program, and the Southwest Alabama Department of Justice will use the money to integrate data from various criminal justice agencies. States also will receive $30 million in grants to reduce their DNA backlogs and for the Crime Laboratory Improvement Program.

The bill also includes $15 million for Safe Schools technologies, which are geared toward providing more effective safety techniques in the nation's schools, and $35 million for the Brady Act to upgrade criminal history records.

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