Kansas Common Sense

Back the Blue

Our nation’s law enforcement professionals deserve our continued support and respect.

I have seen firsthand the dedication of our Kansas law enforcement and this year – even while responding to a global pandemic – has been no exception. I want to express my thanks, appreciation and support for all of the men and women who work each day to protect our communities.

I am a strong supporter of our law enforcement professionals. This newsletter is a snapshot of my efforts to #BackTheBlue over the past year.

Leading the Senate Committee That Provides Federal Resources to Law Enforcement

Providing Resources to Law Enforcement Amid Calls to ‘Defund the Police’
As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS), my top priority is to make certain our state, local and tribal enforcement officers have the federal resources they need to keep our communities safe. My committee funds the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Bureau of Prisons and United States Marshal Service, among others.

Last year, my CJS bill provided a pay raise for law enforcement as well as more robust funding for the important programs that help keep Kansas communities safe. This includes programs created by the STOP School Violence Act and resources to conduct federal operations with a specific focus, such as combatting violent crime. Several of these federally-supported operations, such as Operation Triple Beam, Operation Save a Casing, and Operation Legend have been conducted, at my request, in cities across Kansas.

Advocating for the Unique Needs of Each Community

My CJS legislation also included funding for important state and local law enforcement and crime prevention grant initiatives administered through departments such as the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Office on Violence Against Women. Every community in Kansas is unique, and the grant programs distributed by the DOJ provide law enforcement and other Kansas departments the flexibility to identify specific focus areas that will benefit their towns. Over the last year, Kansas agencies have been awarded over $9.4 million in funding assistance through these grant programs.

Supporting the JUSTICE Act
This June, I joined Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and my colleagues in the Senate to introduce the JUSTICE Act. This legislation would make significant progress towards improving police and community relations across the country while also providing the accountability we expect from our police departments by increasing the reporting requirement on excessive use of force and requiring the use of body cameras. This legislation would also enhance police training and create more transparency and trust, which is critical to the health and well-being of our communities.

Even though the JUSTICE Act consisted of overwhelmingly bipartisan priorities, Democratic opposition prevents it from advancing on the Senate floor. To learn more about how this legislation offers reform, accountability and transparency, click here.

Hosting Attorney General William Barr in Kansas
Last October, I hosted Attorney General William Barr to tour key facilities in Topeka and Wichita and to meet with state and local law enforcement. In Topeka, we visited the Kansas Intelligence Fusion Center and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Science Center. Both facilities work in partnership with agencies and jurisdictions throughout Kansas, and we heard an update on their work to assist law enforcement in solving and fighting crime in every corner of the state.

In Wichita, we joined staff of the U.S. Attorney’s office to discuss ongoing partnerships to fight and prosecute crime; we met with leaders at Wichita State University who engage in work between the university’s Law Enforcement Training Center and the ATF. Most importantly, in both Topeka and Wichita, we spent time with law enforcement officials to hear firsthand how we can best support them at the federal level.

I’m committed to working with Attorney General Barr to make certain our law enforcement personnel have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. I’m proud of the work we’ve seen from all across the state to increase collaboration for the safety and well-being of Kansans. Attorney General Barr has a deep appreciation for our men and women in uniform, and I thank him for meeting with Kansas law enforcement during his time in our state.

Supporting Law Enforcement During COVID-19

At a time when people are being asked to practice social distancing, law enforcement officers continue to provide critical services to ensure the health and well-being of our communities.

Cosponsoring the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act

I introduced the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR) with my Senate colleagues to help the families of first responders lost to COVID-19 access public service benefits. This legislation, which passed the Senate in May and has now been signed into law, makes certain that families of officers and first responders lost to COVID-19 can quickly access survivor benefits under the Public Safety Officer Benefits Program, reducing unnecessary barriers.

Our law enforcement officers and first responders continue to show up for work every day during this pandemic despite the added risk of contracting COVID-19. As a country, we support and care for the families of first responders when they pass away from a work-related event, but this bill recognizes the threat this disease poses on law enforcement and first responders and helps provide their families with the benefits they are owed.

Bringing CARES Act Funds to Kansas Law Enforcement
In March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, more commonly referred to as the CARES Act, was passed by the Senate. This legislation included Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program (CESF) grants which have supported state, local and tribal law enforcement. The CESF grant provided $850 million in direct assistance to state and local officials which allowed police departments and other first responders to meet the unique challenges facing their area, including the purchase of PPE and medical items and to support overtime for officers working on the front lines. Thus far, via the CESF grant Kansas has been awarded, $9.2 million has helped over 50 state and local agencies.

Supporting Innovative PPE Shortage Solutions in Johnson County
Last month, I visited with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and toured the Criminalistics Laboratory (JCSOCL). The JCSOCL is one of three accredited full-service police crime laboratories in Kansas and we discussed their innovative approach to address shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many first responders in the state experienced a shortage of PPE. In order to address this ongoing issue, the JCSOCL launched a program to sanitize facemasks so they could be reused by first responders. Lab technicians converted stainless steel evidence collection units into sanitation chambers by retrofitting them with ultraviolet lighting systems. The Johnson County Lab then partnered with American Dish Service in Edwardsville to manufacture the PPE decontamination unit which I was able to see in use during my tour. These sanitation chambers have been provided to both the Johnson County Fire Department and Johnson County Med-Act. Those at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Criminalistics Laboratory are providing an invaluable service for Kansans, and I thank them for their continued commitment to the community.

Kansas Law Enforcement Are Hard at Work in Our State

Speaking with Cadets at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center
In July, I visited the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center (KLETC) in Hutchinson to tour the facility, observe training exercises and meet with instructors and cadets. I was able to see firsthand how police cadets from across the state receive training and support at this premiere facility and how the training curriculum has been adapted to reflect the needs of communities in Kansas. I look forward to following the careers of our police cadets and working to make certain they have the necessary resources to strengthen engagement and trust within the communities they serve.

Visiting with Salina-area Law Enforcement

Today, I visited the Salina Regional Training Center and met with leaders and officers from the Salina Police Department and Saline County Sheriff's office. Both agencies received federal CESF grants to support their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and it was important to hear how those funds helped their departments and officers. I also toured the facility to see the their training areas, technology and equipment and hear first-hand their efforts to keep the Salina community safe.

Speaking to the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police 
Last September, I was honored to attend the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police annual meeting in McPherson at the invitation of Garden City Police Chief Michael Utz. The annual meeting includes law enforcement leaders from across Kansas to discuss important public safety topics. Together, we are increasing partnerships between local, state and federal law enforcement officials to support our men and women in uniform and keep our communities safe.

Showing Appreciation for Law Enforcement Efforts Combatting Drug Trafficking
I recently had the opportunity to join Executive Director Jeffery Stamm and his staff on a tour of the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). The HIDTA Program was established in 1988 to provide assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement entities in areas that are most adversely affected by drug trafficking. More specifically, the HIDTA program helps establish and operate drug enforcement task forces designed to dismantle and disrupt drug trafficking organizations as well as improve communication and information sharing between federal and local law enforcement agencies. Because metropolitan, suburban and rural areas each face their own unique threats for home-grown and transnational drug trafficking, the HIDTA program is an important resource that allows federal support to be tailored to the specific needs of each area. As our nation continues to face the constantly evolving threat of drug trafficking and the crime that comes with it, I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure law enforcement in Kansas and across the country have the support and resources they need to respond effectively and keep us safe.

Announcing a New DEA Agent Assigned to Kansas in July
I joined Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Bill Callahan in Wichita in July to introduce the new DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Rogeana Patterson-King. I was pleased to see this new position exclusively dedicated to DEA efforts in Kansas, rather than agents having to split time and resources between neighboring states. I was also grateful for the opportunity to speak with Wichita Chief of Police Gordon Ramsay and Sedgwick County Sherriff Jeff Easter. Law enforcement agencies in the Wichita area have worked together to combat violent and drug-related crime, and I appreciated receiving an update on their most recent efforts. Congratulations again to Assistant Special Agent in Charge Patterson-King.

Hosting U.S. Bureau of Prisons Director in Leavenworth to Announce New Facility
In August, I hosted the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Michael Carvajal at the United States Penitentiary (USP) Leavenworth to discuss the construction of a new Federal Correctional Institute and a satellite Federal Prison Camp. Over the past few years, I was pleased to work with leaders in Leavenworth to advocate for this new prison and help secure the $350 million needed to fully fund its construction. These funds have now been officially allocated and the final phases of pre-construction planning are underway.

This new Leavenworth correctional facility will be the largest federal undertaking in Kansas over the past five years and is a significant investment in the local economy that will add hundreds of jobs and construction contracts in the coming years. The USP Leavenworth has been a landmark federal institution for the past century, and this undertaking marks the beginning of a new era for USP Leavenworth, the Bureau of Prisons and the Leavenworth correctional officers.  

Thanking the Longest Serving Ellis County Sheriff
A few weeks ago, I stopped by the Ellis County Sheriff’s office to help honor Sheriff Ed Harbin who has served Ellis County for 24 years before his retirement in January. Thank you for your service to Kansas, Sheriff Harbin.

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