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Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. Representative Filner, you will be recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT FILNER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA Mr. FILNER. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, for your commitment to our law enforcement community throughout the Nation.
I especially appreciate your opening remarks, Madam Chairwoman; and I would underline them with a tragic irony. That is, when Customs inspectors or INS inspectors—at least that is what they used to call them before the new agencies—are killed in the line of duty, their names are inscribed here in Washington on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which I know you have all been to. It is a very moving memorial. Their names are inscribed as law enforcement officers when they die.
When they are alive, we don't call them law enforcement officers; and that is a tragic irony I think we should correct. My bill, introduced jointly with Mr. McHugh of New York, which I greatly appreciate, is simply stated: Give law enforcement status to law enforcement officers.
Many Federal officials, as you outlined in your opening remarks, all of you, are classified as law enforcement officers [LĒOs), with certain salary and retirement benefits, but there are other officers who are trained to carry weapons, who wear body armor, who face the same daily risk as law enforcement officers who are just not so classified. These officers may be in the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and Bureau of Immigration Customs Enforcement inspectors at the Department of Homeland Security. There are U.S. Mint police officers, U.S. Internal Revenue Service officers in two dozen other agencies. They are not eligible, as you know, for early retirement and other benefits designed to maintain a young and vigorous law enforcement work force. We need to combat those who pose risks to our society.
As Mr. McHugh represents the New York-Canadian border, my district encompasses the entire California-Mexico border and is home to two of the busiest crossings in the world. So both of us are very aware of the work that Border and Customs inspectors do at our borders. They wear bulletproof vests, they carry firearms, and they have to use them. They are subject to the same risk as other officers with whom they serve by side by side and who do have the benefits of that law enforcement status.
I know you have probably had the same experience. I have met with severely injured inspectors who had to face border shoot-outs or border drive-throughs, masked attempt to cross the border in armed vehicles. I have met with families of inspectors who were killed in the line of duty.
This is something, I think, we have to correct; and H.R. 2442 I think makes important strides to do that. Any cost that is created by this act—and this is very important–is offset by the savings and training costs and increased revenue collection.
I know that you have mentioned that also, that if we have good morale, if we have good benefits, if we have good salary, if we have a good workplace environment, we do not have to go through the same training costs as we would—as this group may move on to
better jobs. So a 20-year retirement for those employees will reduce that turnover, increase the yield, decrease recruitment, enhance the retention of a well-trained and experienced work force.
Madam Chairwoman, when this bill was introduced last year, we had 212 cosponsors, a bipartisan group, including yourself, Madam Chairwoman. I hope we can end the tragic irony that I started off with. Let us make sure that those who do law enforcement work have that classification.
Mrs. DAVIS OF VIRGINIA. Thank you, Representative Filner.
STATEMENT OF HON. MICHAEL ROGERS, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN Mr. ROGERS. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. Thank you for your leadership on this issue, in bringing this to the forefront. Very important. Thanks to my fellow panel members as well and all the members on the committee. Thank you for your concern.
I had the great fortune and privilege to serve as a Special Agent with the FBI for over 5 years. I know these people as friends and as colleagues, and now they are spread--all the people I worked with are all over the country-New York, Los Angeles and friends here today in Washington, DC. And one of the things like the FBI and Federal law enforcement agencies, there is a very strong lure. I mean, you get to go in and defend America, you get to put bad folks in jail, and that is a strong lure for recruiting.
When you are going after the best and the brightest, that is what they sell. They tell you are going to be a special breed of a Federal law enforcement officer, to do great things for your country. Pretty powerful stuff.
Well, that strong lure is often hit with a brick wall when you get that first assignment. By the way, before you get in, you think you'll get through anything. You can get through the training school and you can finally get those credentials, you will get through anything. But what these agents soon find is that the financial realities of this are pretty stark.
What I wanted to do is talk just a minute and actually read some actual comments from agents all around the country and the things that they are suffering; and these are dedicated people who want to continue in the FBI, Customs and other agencies. They are just hit with the very harsh reality of the pay disparity that they are facing in many of these areas.
One is a GS-10, step 2. He is assigned to the San Francisco division: “I am seriously leaving the Bureau, but I am waiting until I go off probation. I will try to get out of this division any way I can-a specialty, a hardship, headquarters—any way that I possibly can. My decision is strongly reflected by my inability to purchase or invest in property or my future savings in retirement. I pack my lunch every day. Eating in a restaurant is absolutely nonexistent.”
Unfortunately, that is the case for many of those agents who are just scraping by, want to do what they are doing, they love the work, they're very patriotic, but it's a bit embarrassing to go home “I am a GS-13, step 10, assigned to the San Francisco division. Speaking from experience, it does not matter how important or what the quality of work you are doing is if you are worried about how
you are going to pay your bills.” GS-14, assigned to Newark, "happy with the job, but really tired of the long days and the long commutes to the office. Most embarrassing, after 16 years in the Bureau, having to borrow $20,000 from close relatives just to be able to purchase a house in commuting distance within the Newark office division.”
"I am a GS-14 assigned to Quantico. I joined the Bureau for the challenge and because it was the best law enforcement agency in the world. My morale is not good because of the cost of college that I have to try to save for. I am barely able to afford a new refrigerator. Mine is 20 years old. Low pay is a high reflection of my low morale. I have not been able to contribute to my savings account since I have been in the Washington, DC, area. I am certainly not desperate, but I certainly am not in the upper class when it comes to income, as statistics show."
“I am a GS–10 assigned to the Boston division. As it is, we absolutely have no money left at the end of each 2-week period and have had to ask our mortgage company to put our payments on hold until we can sell our house from the city I processed out of. Our family, including our children, are now living with my in-laws. It is mortifying to have to sponge off our relatives when you are our age.”
Many of these agencies are attempting to recruit older agents with experience and a certain level of skill set, and we are putting a lot of pressure on these folks to come into the Bureau and other Federal law enforcement agencies because we need their talent. The country needs them at this hour.
When that agent, who is asking the mortgage company to hold off on his payments, is working long hours, his wife is at home trying to get the house in order and he is not coming home, I guarantee it, he is working weekends trying to defend America, it is only right we step up to the plate and say we understand that you will not be wealthy but we have the obligation to make sure that they do not run into these life problems as defenders of the United States of America.
I appreciate your leadership and hope we can have some quick action on this matter.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources
Madame Chairwoman, Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today's hearing. Addressing the evolving
needs of federal law enforcement officers and agencies will most certainly require your continued attention
As you know, we are facing an ongoing crisis within our federal law enforcement agencies. It is not the
typical, generalized federal personnel problem we are facing in a number of other government agencies. It
is a readiness crisis caused by a pay and personnel system which does not meet the unique needs of law
FBI agents and other federal law enforcement officers combat terrorists, child kidnappers, drug traffickers,
corporate swindlers, computer criminals, gangs, organized crime, and hate crimes groups. Yet, our pay
system does not reflect the particular needs of federal law enforcement agencies.
For example, under the current pay system, the FBI cannot offer special pay to agents with critical skills,
such as language, computer, and forensics expertise. Given private sector demand for such expertise, the
Bureau is finding it difficult to recruit and retain agents with the types of skills needed to defeat 21st
Instead of a modern, flexible pay system we continue to apply the General Schedule (GS) carcer
development system, which was designed for white-collar workers, to law enforcement officers. This
decision to continue to make due with an inappropriate system has had the consequnce of requiring
agencies to evaluate and promote according to a rigid GS step and grade system, without taking into
account law enforcement markers of performance, such as cases solved or law enforcement specific skills
The inadequacies of the GS pay scale are most obvious in the case of Special Agents assigned to high cost
of living cities. For example, the current salary for a newly hired FBI Special Agent in San Francisco is
$56,453, including all overtime payments. A search for a “low income” home within a 60 to 90 minute
commute of San Francisco placed the house in the $300,000 range with a mandatory income of $86,000.
The current pay system also hampers agency efficiencies and effectiveness through pay compression. Pay
compression squeezes our law enforcement agencies as well as our agents. It not only discourages our
best and brightest from moving into the management ranks, it also discourages agents from remaining past
basic retirement eligibility at a time when this country needs experienced, steady heads in charge.
These two facts are particularly exasperating when one considers that, as this committee knows, the
Government Accounting Agency has found that between now and 2006, the retirement rate among federal
law enforcement is expected to exceed 20 percent. Stemming this tidal-wave of retirements will require