Federal grants vital to local law enforcement in Iowa

Congressman Dave Loebsack meets with law enforcement officials in Ottumwa to discuss local agencies and how they are funded.

Congressman Dave Loebsack met with representatives of local law enforcement at a round-table meeting in Ottumwa Friday morning.

The purpose of the gathering was to discuss federal grants and funding, vital to the survival of several area agencies, including the Drug Task Force, and express concerns.

In Southeast Iowa, grants largely fund everything from drug enforcement to police equipment, such as in-car cameras. Grant money has severely decreased since 2007, and this year, local law agencies will have to come up with around $100,000 in funds to cover what the grants do not.

Both the congressman and law officials agree that the money received from Washington is crucial to local programs.

"I think it's the ingenuity, the resourcefulness of the bad guys," said Congressman Loebsack, speaking on what information surprised him most at Friday's meeting. "They always are able to find a way to make something in a different way or get around law enforcement. So it's a constant battle, no doubt about it, and law enforcement, local communities have to be ingenious as well, they have to figure out a way to battle bad guys, but we can't do it without this kind of funding from Washington, especially given the limited funding in the local areas like Ottumwa."

Ottumwa Police and the Wapello County Sheriff's Department agree. Here in Ottumwa, much of the city budget goes towards the necessary South Side Sewer Separation project, leaving little to law enforcement.

"It's really important that the federal government continues the two JAG programs, with probably the number one being the BYRNE JAG that funds area drug task forces, that's critical," said Ottumwa Police Chief Jim Clark. "And then the other JAG grant that funds equipment for local agencies. Without that, we probably wouldn't have half the equipment we have because our city budget just cant afford to purchase a lot of equipment right now."

Congressman Loebsack also noted that one of the biggest problems regarding funding and lawmakers in Washington is that many do not realize that rural areas oftentimes face similar drug, gang or crime problems as urban areas do. Going forward, that is one area marked for improvement.

All member in attendance at Friday's round table expressed appreciation for Congressman Loebsack's support towards local law agencies.