WASHINGTON — New York City had to undertake an “immense response” to ensure its security after the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani by U.S. armed forces, Deputy Police Commissioner John J. Miller told a House committee Thursday.
The New York Police Department relies heavily on federal funding to strengthen such capabilities, Miller told a hearing of the House Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Subcommittee.
Amid rising levels of anti-Semitic violence and the increased risk of a terrorist attack, the federal government needs to provide more funding for state and local security, according to Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne, D-N.J., and New York Rep. Peter King, the top Republican on the subcommittee.
Payne emphasized that one city’s safety is connected to that of the neighboring localities.
“These areas are so interconnected,” Payne said. “Somehow we have to get the Department (of Homeland Security) to understand the connectivity of this to make sure the funding stays robust for the entire nation.”
Michael Masters, national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network, said funding the nonprofit security grant program makes communities feel safer. His nonprofit provides strategies and training to help Jewish groups protect themselves. It has placed electronic locks on community center doors, cameras in synagogues and panic buttons in school classrooms, Masters said.
Recently, organizations in rural and suburban areas have been able to use the program’s funding — “an important expansion,” Masters said, noting recent anti-Semitic attacks in places like Overland Park, Kansas and Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Still, Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., said rural and suburban communities like hers — which face a “real resource gap” in defending against threats of terrorism — need to be made more aware of the funding that exists.
Another grant program, the Urban Areas Security Initiative, helps high-threat, high-density urban areas prevent and respond to terrorism. Michael Sprayberry, a top official in North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety Division, took issue with Charlotte’s removal from the list of funded jurisdictions. North Carolina’s most populous jurisdiction, Charlotte is also hosting the 2020 Republican National Convention.
“With major mass gatherings and public events occurring almost weekly in the jurisdiction and with the 2020 Republican National Convention scheduled for August, the ability to respond to known threats and hazards has been diminished,” Sprayberry said in a prepared statement.
Democrats and Republicans on the committee criticized President Donald Trump’s cuts to state and local emergency management programs. King said it “sends a bad signal” when administrations don’t recognize the danger presented by unknown threats. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, connected the president’s rhetoric t0 the increase in domestic terrorism.
“It’s ironic that the president is cutting these grants and some of the acrimony that we are experiencing is exacerbated by his commentary,” Green said. “His commentary at the top sets a tone and tenor that’s unacceptable.”