Vice President Joe Biden made a visit to the yet-to-be-opened new Alexandria Police Department headquarters on Wheeler Avenue Thursday to discuss President Obama’s jobs bill and what it could do for public safety workers.
The police department was also recognized for receiving a grant from the Department of Justice totaling more than $850,000 to go toward hiring four new officers.
“You got it because you deserved it and you need it,” Biden told a crowd comprised mostly of law enforcement and city officials. “You received this grant so you can begin to make good on the cuts that have been made to the state and county.”
Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook said the department has had to make cuts in recent years to its domestic violence unit and others.
Biden spoke of drastic cuts to police forces in Paterson, N.J., and Flint, Mich., following the country’s economic collapse. He said reduced police forces not only put a huge strain on departments but also endanger the safety of active officers.
“Imagine if we cut your force from 300 to 100,” Biden said. “How the hell—how the heck are you going to do your jobs? … We owe you every tool available not just to keep the community safe, but to keep you safe.”
Biden went on to discuss how the President’s jobs bill would support the hiring and rehiring of public safety and first-responder personnel around the country with $4 billion in Community Oriented Policing Services grants like the one the APD received.
“This all gets down to basic choices. It’s about priorities,” Biden said. “It’s about making sure police departments remain a part of the basic fabric of our lives.”
Biden said there are Republicans in Congress who oppose the police funding and the jobs bill as a whole.
“We're willing to negotiate with them if they have a better way to get more cops on the streets, to provide for more jobs,” Biden said.
Alexandria City Councilman Frank Fannon, the lone Republican on the council, attended the speech and said he was worried that the $477 billion jobs bill wouldn’t hit its mark.
“I’m worried about putting that kind of money out there because we did that with the stimulus bill and all we got was higher debt and unemployment,” Fannon said.
Fannon said he believes job creation is achieved through reducing taxes and regulations.
Mayor Bill Euille, Vice Mayor Kerry Donley and Councilwomen Alicia Hughes and Del Pepper were also in attendance Thursday, as was U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th) and Del. Charniele Herring (D-46th).