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I want to begin by thanking everyone for being here today, and especially Chairman Mark Souder for
On one hand, it is impossible to address “adequate compensation" for people who put their lives on the
Several factors complicate the question of pay for federal law enforcement officers. First is the question of whether the current pay scale is meeting the needs of law enforcement officers in high cost-ofliving areas, such as San Francisco, southern California, Boston, New York and the Washington, D.C. arca. There is strong anecdotal evidence that we are having difficulty keeping or recruiting talented officers in those high-cost metropolitan areas. This is very worrisome, especially given the importance of our big cities in fighting crime and terrorism.
Second, there is a larger question of who is considered a law enforcement officer, who is not, and who should be. Federal law enforcement officers, or LEOs, receive enhanced pay and retirement benefits. FBI agents, DEA agents, Customs criminal investigators, Border Patrol agents and Secret Service criminal investigators are among those defined as LEOs. Customs inspectors, Immigration inspectors and Department of Defense police are among those who do not.
The benefits given to “law enforcement officers” began with FBI agents in 1947 and were quickly expanded to include any federal employee whose position primarily deals with the “apprehension, investigation and detention of known or suspected violators of federal law." It now also includes anyone who comes in "frequent and direct” contact with federal inmates, and in some cases, agents who protect federal officials.
The designation of “aw enforcement officer,” however, is clearly a flawed term. The enhanced benefits were – and are - a management tool designed to strike a balance between helping certain agencies maintain a young and vigorous workforce and compensating those agents adequately for being required to retire early.
But the end result is: Many people who are clearly law enforcement officers by the plain meaning of that term do not meet the standards of “law enforcement officer" in terms of earning these enhanced benefits. That is confusing - if not insulting -- to a federal agent who carries a gun and who risks his life every day but is told that he or she does not deserve the same benefits many other officers receive.
Fortunately, the creation of the Homeland Security Department crystallizes these issues in a way that may lend itself to reform. For example, the merging together of Customs inspectors from the former Customs Service, Immigration inspectors from the former INS, and the agricultural inspectors from APHIS into the new Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has created a situation where co-workers progress up the GS scale differently and work under different overtime and availability rules. Homeland Security also has a large number of those federal agents who are not considered law enforcement officers but who have arrest authority.
DHS is working with the Office of Personnel Management to determine a solution to these disparities, and is supposed to come back by the end of the year with some recommendations – a process that I hope will help us solve some of these complex problems.
Mr. CUMMINGS. Thank you very much, Madam Chairlady.
Chairwoman Davis and Chairman Souder, the Federal Government's response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the readjustment of agency priorities to address future threats to our Nation's security have involved major changes for civilian and Federal employees. Personnel who perform law enforcement functions have especially been affected.
In hearings before the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, we have heard testimony concerning the massive amounts of overtime work by Customs and Border Patrol officers manning our Nation's borders and ports of entry in the months following the attacks. We know of the migration of law enforcement personnel to the Transportation Safety Administration as well as the congressionally mandated transfer of 22 agencies to the Department of Homeland Security. Not all of these employees receive the same compensation and
efits. For example, there are stark differences in pay among the 13 uniformed Federal police agencies examined in the testimony we will hear from GAO on this subject.
Of particular interest to the committee is the disparity in the retirement benefits among different classes of Federal employees who perform similar functions. In order to provide for a young, vigorous personnel pool for Federal law enforcement agencies, Congress enacted—required early retirement for positions defined as, “law enforcement officers.” As compensation for having to retire earlier than other Federal employees, LEOs accrue benefits at a faster rate than other Federal employees. Once retired, they receive annual cost of living adjustments, regardless of age. By contrast, other Federal employees do not receive COLA's under the Federal employee's retirement system until age 62.
For purposes of determining retirement benefits, the U.S. Code defines a law enforcement officer as an employee the duties of whose position are primarily the investigation, apprehension or detention of individuals suspected or convicted of offenses against the criminal laws of the United States of America. Some employees who have the power of arrest, the authority to carry firearms and duties to enforce laws are not authorized or required to investigate, apprehend or detain individuals. The employees are not classified as law enforcement officers and do not receive enhanced law enforcement retirement benefits.
Even before the September 11 attacks, inequities in our Federal employees benefit system existed. Meeting the challenges of homeland security has brought into sharper focus the importance of recruitment and retention with regard to certain agencies.
There have been a number of proposals introduced in the House and Senate to remedy the problem agencies face in the area of recruitment and retention. We will hear from the sponsors of several of those bills today. These are not simple issues to resolve, and no legislation will provide us a silver bullet.
Today's hearing also offers us a valuable opportunity to hear about ongoing efforts within agencies to tackle the post-September 11 challenges of recruiting and retaining highly competent and motivated work force personnel and the extent to which they are using the tools already at their disposal. In many cases, the employees are talking about help to form our first line of defense on the war against terror. Our Nation's security will depend in part upon our ability to recruit and retain employees to perform vital homeland security functions.
With that, Madam Chairlady, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today; and I thank you.
Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. Thank you, Mr. Cummings.
I would like to recognize Mr. McHugh from New York for an opening statement.
Mr. MCHUGH. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. I do have a prepared statement, Madam Chairwoman, that I ask be submitted in its entirety for the record without objection.
Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. Without objection.
First of all, I want to add my words of appreciation and compliments to you, Madam Chairwoman, and Chairman Souder for recognizing the very important nature of this challenge.
I am hopeful, as I know you are, that the testimony we'll hear today from our esteemed colleagues, my good friend and kind of neighbor from the great “island of long,” as in Long Island, Mr. King; Mr. Filner, who has been working on this issue for quite some time; and I have been honored to work with his permission this year on H.R. 2442, the Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act, which tries to respond, I think, in a very effective way to these problems. He's a leader. And Mr. Rogers, a good friend and someone who obviously is deeply concerned with this issue, as we all
I have the distinct pleasure of representing a district that borders both the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and I have four designated border crossings and literally hundreds of miles of undesignated crossings across the waters of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Part of that distinct pleasure is the opportunity and honor to represent many of these fine, dedicated, hard-working Federal officials that thankfully are the topic of this hearing here today. Whether they be in Customs or border protection or Bureau of Immigration enforcement inspectors again and Customs, these are folks who put their lives on the line for us.
As the hearing title suggests, September 11 has certainly caused us to take a new focus on that reality that I agree with Mr. Cummings that in fact existed before September 11. But if we can take that devastating day and at least begin to correct some oversights with respect to these fine officers that has gone on too long, at least we will have learned a very valuable lesson.
I look forward to the testimony of our colleagues, Madam Chairwoman; and again I thank you for your leadership and look forward to the testimony.
Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. Thank you, Mr. McHugh.
Opening Statement of John McHugh
July 23, 2003
Mr. Chairman and Chairwoman Davis, I want to thank you for holding this hearing today on an issue of great importance to our Federal law enforcement officers and to those in the communities that they protect. I believe this hearing will provide Members with a comprehensive understanding of the existing challenges in personnel issues affecting federal law enforcement officers. I would like to welcome the witnesses that have been invited here today to testify, with a particularly warm welcome to the senior Senator from our great State of New York, Senator Schumer, and Representative Filner, with whom I have had the great privilege of working on H.R. 2442, the Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate that you have invited a panel of our colleagues to discuss the legislative remedies that are being proposed to address the disparity in pay, benefits, and retirement among officers, in addition to recruitment, retention, work conditions, and quality of life issues related to federal law enforcement personnel.
On a personal level, I am pleased to be a lead sponsor, along with Mr. Filner, on the Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act. I appreciate all of Mr. Filner's efforts and am delighted that he has been invited to speak on behalf of this noteworthy legislation today. This bill has already proven, in the past, to be a widely supported bipartisan bill, boasting of over 200 co-sponsors last Congress. Our efforts are continuing to garner the same level of support for this meaningful legislation in this Congressional session. I deeply appreciate that this measure has been recognized by Committee leadership and is receiving the careful attention and review that it deserves. This legislative process appears to be moving forward, and I am happy to have long been on board for efforts that redefine the term “law enforcement officer,” for retirement benefit purposes to include Customs Inspectors, Caninc Enforcement Officers, and IRS Revenue Officers.
I have the honor and distinction of representing a district that borders Canada. Many of my constituents are employed by the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. They are federal officers working in the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Inspectors. I also represent many of the mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, wives, and husbands of these Officers. We all know that we live in a much different world post 9/11. Like most other federal officers, these officers are issued firearms and body armor to wear while performing their duties protecting the borders of our country. Unlike nearly all other federal officers, however, they are not eligible for early retirement and other benefits designed to acknowledge the danger of this work and maintain the vigorous workforce needed to combat those who spread terror and risk to our society. I am convinced that H.R. 2442, as well as other efforts that will be discussed today, can increase yield, decrease recruitment and development costs, and enhance the retention of a well-trained and experienced workforce. I am committed to achieving these goals by recognizing and properly compensating those Officers who daily risk their lives and personal safety in order to protect and enhance the quality of life and the public safety of those who live and work in my District and the surrounding areas.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman and Chairwoman Davis for holding this hearing. I look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses.