United States. Congress. House. Committee on the J.

Taking Back Our Streets Act of 1995 : hearings before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, on H.R. 3 ... January 19 and 20, 1995 online

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number of witnesses that we have today.

I do not anticipate a second round of questions. When we get to
smaller panels and smaller hearings in the future, we may well go
to that route. If there comes a point during the course of any of



99

these panels that members of the subcommittee are concerned that
some question hasn't been asked, if you could submit a note or
something to myself or Mr. Schumer, we will try to act as cleanup
up here as best as possible; but we need to move the hearing along
both for ourselves and particularly our witnesses who are here
today.

Today, I welcome our first witness, this witness, John Schmidt,
the Associate Attorney General of the United States. We welcome
you this morning.

Mr. Schmidt has served as Associate Attorney General since July
1994. Prior to his nomination, Mr. Schmidt served since April 1993
as Ambassador and chief U.S. negotiator for the Uruguay round of
the GATT world trade talks.

At the time of his appointment, Mr. Schmidt was a senior part-
ner in the Chicago law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher &
Flom, which he cofounded in 1984. He has been a leader in a wide
range of activities in Chicago. We welcome you to the hearing
today, and we thank you and look forward to your testimony.

STATEMENT OF JOHN R. SCHMIDT, ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY
GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Mr. Schmidt. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and other members of
the committee. I am

Mr. McCOLLUM. We need — the mike needs to be turned on.

Mr. Schmidt. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and other members of
the committee. I am very pleased to be here and to have the oppor-
tunity to present the views of the Department of Justice on H.R.
3, the Taking Back Our Streets Act, as you begin your consider-
ation of this proposed law.

I would like to try in this testimony to bring to bear, and to give
you, I hope, the benefits of some perspectives which are derived
heavily from having spent a large part of my time in the last
month on the implementation of the 1994 crime law, which passed
at the end of last summer and was signed into law in September.

At that time, the Attorney General asked me to assume the over-
all responsibility in the Justice Department for the implementation
of that law. As a result of that, I have spent a lot of time talking
with a lot of people out and around this country, people who are
involved in that implementation or who will be affected by it. That
includes law enforcement professionals, police chiefs in big cities
and small towns, and sheriffs in urban and rural areas and pros-
ecutors and county and State and city officials and people who run
programs to provide assistance for victims of domestic abuse.

I have tried very hard, as we have moved into this implementa-
tion of the 1994 law, to maintain a local perspective, to look at this
law — to look at these programs from the standpoint of, what are
these really going to mean to local communities?

I come to this job from a background primarily in local govern-
ment, having served among other things, as chief of staff to the
mayor of Chicago, so I naturally see things from that local perspec-
tive. I also think that this is simply the right way to look at this
issue because it is in local communities around this country that
the battle against violent crime is being fought. I absolutely believe
that is a battle that can be won, and I am encouraged as I go



100

around the country that there are lots of people that share that
view. I also find that the people believe that that 1994 law provides
them with real and important new tools and weapons and can
make a real contribution to winning that battle.

So as we move forward, it seems to me that that sense of accom-
plishment — or maybe to be more candid about it, the beginning of
that, real accomplishment, is absolutely vital. We must sustain and
maintain our efforts and do ever5^hing possible to further imple-
ment the Crime Act and do nothing to undermine it.

I think, as all of you know, the 1994 law passed after a very long
struggle, and a lot of members of this committee participated ac-
tively in that struggle. It passed with bipartisan support. It passed
with broad support from a really diverse cross-section of the Amer-
ican people. That support cut across a lot of traditional ideological
and other lines. It included the support of virtually every major law
enforcement organization in the country.

I think the reason that the Crime Act had that diverse support
and was able to cut across and cut through a lot of traditional divi-
sions and ideological lines is because it did represent a comprehen-
sive and balanced approach to crime fighting in this country. It in-
cluded substantial funding to expand and strengthen police forces;
it included substantial funding to build new prisons; it also in-
cluded funding for smart and effective crime prevention programs
of a kind that law enforcement officials around this country had
been supporting and advocating for many years.

In particular, the 1994 act will put an additional 100,000 police
officers, almost a 20-percent increase, into cities and towns and
counties around this country. It made three-strikes-you-are-out the
law of the land, and it established an effective Federal death pen-
alty. It provided almost $8 billion to build new prisons around this
country and another $1.8 billion to assist in meeting the costs of
incarcerating criminal aliens. It included over $6 billion in effective
crime prevention programs, including a comprehensive program to
deal with the problem of violence against women, a program to
allow communities around the country to replicate the successful
model in the area of drug courts that allows mandatory treatment
of nonviolent drug offenders, and includes another series of pro-
grams that allow local communities to decide how to spend money
on a range of specified, effective crime prevention programs.

By banning the manufacture and sale of assault weapons, the act
also moves to help rid our streets of those dangerous weapons. And
finally, the funding the Crime Act provides — unlike a lot of crime
bills of the past — is not an empty promise. It was backed up by the
creation of the Crime Control Trust Fund, where Congress said
they were going to set aside the proceeds of a 270,000 reduction in
the Federal work force and commit that funding to this crime-fight-
ing effort.

As I have gone around this country I think people have taken the
creation of that trust fund the way I believe it was intended, and
that is as a commitment by the National Government to not a one-
shot or 1-year effort, but to a sustained, nonpartisan, continuing ef-
fort to solve the American problem of crime.

There is still a lot to be done, but fundamentally, I think the
message we want to convey is that we should do what needs to be



101

done in a way that does not undermine what we have already ac-
complished and which will allow us to continue to do the things we
are already doing and are beginning to show progress.

We have tried in the Justice Department to move forward as
quickly as we responsibly could in the implementation of these pro-
grams. We have followed a couple of basic principles. One is to try
to make the process as simple, as nonbureaucratic, as free of red-
tape as we possibly can. And I think we have achieved some suc-
cess in those efforts.

We have, in one case, for example, achieved the almost miracu-
lous result of a Federal program that has a one-page application
form. We have not always been able to achieve that, but we have
always tried. And we have tried to make these programs accessible,
with a response center which answers literally tens of thousands
of calls from people who want to know exactly what is available
and when it will be available. We offer application forms by fax on
demand. We have had dozens of Justice Department officials go out
around the country to talk about these programs. We are trying,
I would say, to set a new standard in user friendliness, in making
this is a program which gets resources down to the local level as
quickly as we can, consistent with the statutory purposes.

Another basic principle we have followed is that these programs
should be administered on a nonpolitical, nonpartisan basis. That
is not something that we started in December. The Attorney (Gen-
eral has stated over and over again, publicly and privately, from
the time this bill was passed that this is a nonpolitical and non-
partisan effort. As far as we are concerned, there are no Democrats
or Republicans as we go forward and administer these programs.

The single program that has probably aroused the most enthu-
siasm, and I think has had the most response so far as we have
moved forward in the implementation of the 1994 bill, is the com-
munity policing program. That is the program to put 100,000 new
police officers into communities around this country. The new
COPS Office that was set up has already been able to go forward
and authorize awards to over 1,000 communities to put almost
10,000 new police officers into communities all across this country.
That was done in part with an initial grant-making that was done
on an extension of last year's police hiring program that was au-
thorized in the bill. It includes the COPS-AHEAD Program which
was set up for communities of 50,000 or over, where, in December,
we authorized almost 5,000 officers to be hired under that program.

We are now going forward with something called the COPS-
FAST Program, which is an acronym for Funding Accelerated for
Smaller Towns. One of the things I learned is that you are not al-
lowed to have a Federal program unless you have an acronym, so
we have had our share of acronyms,

COPS-FAST is a Program which is designed to provide funding
for communities of 50,000 or less. The deadline for applications was
December 31. We have applications in hand from over 7,500 juris-
dictions of 50,000 or less, which represents over half of all of the
eligible communities in this country.

In late December, President Clinton appointed Joe Brann, a po-
lice chief from Hayward, CA, to be the Director of the new COPS
Office. He is developing the additional aspects of that program and



102

also developing the programs for training and technical assistance
for communities which want that and need that in developing the
community policing programs that are called for under this pro-
gram. Because I think — one of the things that seems to me to most
excite people around the country about this program is that it is
not just 100,000 new police officers; it is 100,000 new police officers
to be engaged out in the community under community policing pro-
grams. That is not an idea that emerges from the Clinton adminis-
tration. It is not an idea that emerges from Washington at all. It
is an idea that has emerged, I think, in the law enforcement com-
munity and represents a very strong professional consensus at this
point that the way to fight crime in communities is not to just have
additional police, although that is a critical part of it, but to also
get those police engaged in the communities in any one of a wide
variety of ways.

The COPS Program is not the only program that has moved for-
ward, although it is the one that Congress provided the most fund-
ing for in this initial fiscal year. In the case of the program to pro-
vide assistance in the cost of incarcerating criminal aliens, we
moved forward to implement that program and made initial grants
to the States that have the greatest need for it and all the States
are in the process of being able to apply for that program at the
end of this year on the basis of a formula.

We have moved forward with the program to provide assistance
to the States in improving their criminal history records, which is
something that is not particularly a glamorous program. It is kind
of a back office sort of thing but a critical part of the criminal jus-
tice system for States to have accurate, comprehensive criminal
history records that they can use in making sentencing decisions
and deciding whether to apply laws that restrict access to certain
kinds of jobs. That process is under way and all of the States are
applying for those grants and that money will start to be paid out
as soon as this February.

We have moved forward on the Violence Against Women Pro-
gram, which is a program to set up in each State a comprehensive
plan to provide funding for police, for prosecutors, for programs to
provide assistance for victims of domestic violence, assistance to
people who are operating battered women's shelters. We have put
out temporary regulations and there will be permanent regulations
shortly, and each State under that program will get an initial
award to set in motion that process to have a comprehensive plan
so that the more substantial funding that is available, starting in
October, can be used effectively.

We are also setting in motion the program for assistance for drug
courts around the country, which is an effort to build upon a model
which has been proved and demonstrated to have been effective in
a number of cities. It is a program for mandatory drug treatment
for nonviolent drug offenders. It is not a soft on crime program at
all. It calls for escalating penalties for anybody who fails to carry
out the terms of the treatment. And it is something that has been
shown to work, and there is enormous interest around the country
in other communities, building on that model and developing those
types of operations.



103

We have also moved forward with the correctional program. As
you know, most of the real funding is not available until the next
fiscal year, but we have put out regulations to allow the States to
comment on some of the key issues that are involved in defining
compliance with truth-in-sentencing laws, and we are gearing our-
selves to try to get that program in place so that the real funding
for the building of new prisons can go forward, starting in October.

I find that everywhere I go and talk about these programs, what
people want to know is, what is concrete? What is real? What is
actually going to happen? People really have no interest in the
rhetoric at this point. I have learned to cut short that part of any
description of this program.

Nothing, it seems to me, would be more inconsistent with what
I have sensed and seen from people around the country and their
reaction to the 1994 bill than a reversion or what would be seen
as reversion to a divisive and partisan-motivated battle over these
issues. People want concrete action. They want something that will
be real in their communities, and I think the 1994 law is able to
offer that in many important respects.

There clearly are respects, however, in which the bill which is
now before you seems to us to move forward and to deal with is-
sues that were either not dealt with at all or were not dealt with
fully in the 1994 law; and we are fully prepared and would like to
work with the committee in addressing these additional areas. Let
me run through those.

They include the strengthening of Federal death penalty proce-
dures. They include habeas corpus and exclusionary rule reform,
increased penalties for firearms offenses. They include the estab-
lishment of mandatory restitution for victims of crime, streamlined
procedures for deportation of criminal aliens and limiting abusive
prisoner litigation. We support strengthening the laws in all of
these areas.

The Justice Department has previously expressed support for
legislative language that will deal with each of those issues, and
we are planning to submit in detail to the committee a views letter
which sets that out. But we look forward and want to work with
the members of the committee and other Members of Congress in
trying to do something positive and move forward on those issues.

While those are areas where there is additional progress to be
made and additional steps to be taken, we do strongly oppose those
parts of the proposal which is before you which would undo or re-
peal important elements of last year's 1994 Crime Act. And I be-
lieve there are provisions in the bill before you that would, in fact,
have that kind of adverse and negative effect.

We are strenuously opposed to those provisions of the bill that
would dramatically alter and weaken the Public Safety Partnership
and Community Policing Act, the COPS Program that I have been
describing, that would weaken the prison funding program and in-
discriminately repeal almost all of the crime prevention programs
that were in the 1994 act.

We think it would be a terrible mistake to repeal the program
to put 100,000 new officers into communities all over this coun-
try — a program that is in place, that is going forward, that is work-
ing — and replace it with a plan to pass out $10 billion of taxpayers'



104

money in a way that does not guarantee one new officer on the
beat and that, in fact, would not assure any specific or concrete
gain in pubUc safety.

And let me just speak here from the perspective of one who has
served in local government. If you were to do that, if you were to
divert the COPS Program from a program to put 100,000 new cops
into communities into $10 billion of a kind of "superpork" which
can be used by local government for anything that they declare to
be in the interest of public safety, the practical effect of that is that
money is going to disappear into municipal budgets all over this
country. There are not going to be any results that you can look
to. There are not going to be any of the kinds of concrete results
that this bill has promised to the American people. So we are
strongly opposed to that, and I think it would be a terrible mistake.

It would be similarly ill advised to slash virtually all of the bi-
partisan crime prevention programs of the 1994 act. These pro-
grams account for less than 25 percent of the funding under the
act, but they are strongly supported by police, prosecutors, parents,
and otl.'er p.>:!cle who care about the criminal justice system and
who realize that while more and stronger police forces and more
prisons are important, they are not the sole answer to the crime
problem facing this country. Programs that will allow schools to re-
main open after hours and on weekends, programs that will get
drug offenders off the streets and bring law enforcement officers
into schools to teach children to stay away from drugs, these are
important and needed complements to the elements of enhanced
police protection and increased prison funding that were provided
in the 1994 law.

We support measures that are aimed at cracking down on fire-
arms and violent offenders. There were a number of provisions in
the 1994 law that were intended to do that, and we would be pre-
pared to look at additional stronger provisions such as 5- and 10-
year prison terms for firearms possession for violent felonies or se-
rious drug offenses.

But in contrast to those specific provisions, we think a provision
that sets out to federalize virtually every act of violence committed
with a gun in this country is a false promise. It says something
that is, in fact, not real. We are not going to commit a level of re-
sources in the Federal prosecutorial and other aspects of the Fed-
eral criminal justice system to federalize all of those crimes.

It is in that context that I did use the word "cynicism" in my
statement, because I think a provision of that kind which looks like
something that it really isn't is not in the interest of a serious ef-
fort to deal with the problems of crime in the country.

Finally, although it is not included in the bill which is before
you, we remain very concerned about reports that there are Mem-
bers of Congress who are intent upon repealing the ban on semi-
automatic assault weapons that was part of the Crime Act last
year. That would jeopardize the lives of countless police officers
and civilians. I think to repeal that ban at this point would break
a Contract With America's law enforcement professionals; and I
know that the law enforcement people I have interviewed around
the country would view that overwhelmingly as a betrayal of their
trust.



105

To conclude, there are, as I indicated, provisions of this bill that
we think would be positive and would add and build upon what we
did last year. We would like to work with the committee on those
provisions and on improving them and making them susceptible
and capable of receiving broad and bipartisan support. At the same
time, we are strongly opposed to any attempt to reverse the
progress that has been made and is now going forward to put more
police on the streets of this country, to put more violent offenders
behind prison bars, and to enhance crime prevention capabilities.
We would like to go forward.

We would like very much to go forward together, and I hope we
will be able to do that as we proceed with the consideration of this
bill.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would be glad to respond to any
questions.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Schmidt follows:]



106

Prepared Statement of John R. Schmidt, Associate Attorney General,
Department of Justice

thank you, mr. chairman, for the opportunity to present the

VIEWS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ON H.R. 3, THE "TAKING BACK OUR
STREETS ACT OF 1995."



FIVE MONTHS AGO THE CONGRESS OVERCAME MORE THAN SIX YEARS OF,
GRIDLOCK AND PASSED THE VIOLENT CRIME CONTROL AND LAW ENFORCEMENT
ACT OF 1994 WITH STRONG BIPARTISAN SUPPORT. THIS LAW, WHICH
INCLUDED MUCH OF THE PRESIDENT'S LEGISLATIVE ANTI-CRIME PROGRAM,
WAS THE RESULT OF MUCH DEBATE AND HARD WORK OVER MANY YEARS. IN
FACT, MANY OF ITS PROVISIONS ORIGINATED IN THIS VERY SUBCOMMITTEE.
THE 1994 ACT HAD THE ACTIVE SUPPORT OF EVERY MAJOR LAW ENFORCEMENT
ORGANIZATION IN THE COUNTRY, AS WELL AS PROSECUTORS, MAYORS, COUNTY
EXECUTIVES AND OTHER LOCAL OFFICIALS OF BOTH PARTIES. AND I KNOW
FROM MY OWN DISCUSSIONS AND MEETINGS ABOUT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF
THE CRIME BILL ALL OVER THE COUNTRY THAT THE BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FOR
THE LAW HAS ONLY INCREASED SINCE THAT TIME.

THAT SUPPORT IS BASED ON THE FACT THAT THIS $3 BILLION, SIX-
YEAR VIOLENT CRIME CONTROL ACT IS THE LARGEST, SMARTEST AND
TOUGHEST CRIME BILL IN OUR NATION'S HISTORY. IT ESTABLISHED A
COMPREHENSIVE CRIME FIGHTING STRATEGY DESIGNED TO TAKE CONCRETE
ACTION TO DEAL WITH THE UNACCEPTABLE LEVELS OF CRIMINAL VIOLENCE IN
THIS COUNTRY. IT COMBINED STRONGER POLICING AND TOUGH PUNISHMENT
WITH SMART, EFFECTIVE PREVENTION - A PROGRAM THAT LAW ENFORCEMENT
OFFICIALS HAD LONG BEEN ADVOCATING. AND IT RECOGNIZED THAT THE
BEST ROLE FOR THE 'FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN CRIME FIGHTING IS TO



107



DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN AN EFFECTIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH STATE AND LOCAL
LAW ENFORCEMENT WHICH IS ON THE FRONT LINE OF THE FIGHT AGAINST
CRIME IN OUR COMMUNITIES.

THE VIOLENT CRIME CONTROL ACT WILL PUT AN ADDITIONAL 100,000
POLICE OFFICERS - AN ALMOST 2 0% INCREASE - INTO THE CITIES, TOWNS,-
AND COUNTIES OF THIS COUNTRY. IT MADE "THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE
OUT" FOR REPEAT VIOLENT OFFENDERS THE LAW OF THE LAND AND
ESTABLISHED A TOUGH, ENFORCEABLE FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY. IT PROVIDED
ALMOST $8 BILLION FOR PRISONS TO LOCK AWAY VIOLENT OFFENDERS AND
ANOTHER SI. 8 BILLION TO PAY COSTS OF INCARCERATING CRIMINAL ALIENS.
AND IT INCLUDED OVER $6 BILLION FOR PREVENTION MEASURES INCLUDING
PROGRAMS TO COMBAT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN, TO ESTABLISH DRUG COURTS
TO IMPOSE MANDATORY TREATMENT ON NON-VIOLENT OFFENDERS AND TO GIVE
LOCAL JURISDICTIONS FUNDS TO USE FOR THEIR OWN COMMUNITY -BASED
CRIME PREVENTION PROGRAMS. BY BANNING THE MANUFACTURE AND SALE OF
NEW ASSAULT WEAPONS, THE 1994 ACT WILL HELP RID OUR STREETS OF
THESE DANGEROUS WEAPONS. AND, UNLIKE CRIME BILLS OF THE PAST THAT
PROMISED MUCH BUT DELIVERED LITTLE, THE 1994 ACT IS PAID FOR. BY
ESTABLISHING THE CRIME CONTROL TRUST FUND, THE ACT ENSURED THAT
SAVINGS ACHIEVED THROUGH REDUCTIONS IN THE SIZE OF THE FEDERAL
BUREAUCRACY WOULD BE USED TO FUND THE ANTI -CRIME PROGRAM.

THERE IS STILL MUCH WORK TO BE DONE TO MAKE AMERICA'S
COMMUNITIES SAFE. BUT NOTHING SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO JEOPARDIZE THE
IMPORTANT ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE 1994 ACT.



108



SINCE PRESIDENT CLINTON SIGNED THE CRIME BILL INTO LAW ON
SEPTEMBER 13 OF LAST YEAR, AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL ASKED ME TO
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ITS IMPLEMENTATION, WE HAVE MOVED FORWARD
EFFECTIVELY WITH THE SUPPORT OF STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS AROUND
THE COUNTRY. IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NEW CRIME ACT IS ONE OF THE
ADMINISTRATION'S HIGHEST PRIORITIES AND WE HAVE TAKEN STEPS TO,.



Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JTaking Back Our Streets Act of 1995 : hearings before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, on H.R. 3 ... January 19 and 20, 1995 → online text (page 8 of 51)