McKeesport – May 5, 2020 – More than $17 million in federal funds earmarked for the purchase of personal protection equipment (PPE), supplies and training in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be available through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), state Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said today.
“There is a significant amount of federal funding available to help with the purchase of PPE, cleaning supplies and pay for critical needs,” Brewster said. “These funds should be released as soon as possible so they can be put to good use in protecting our first-responders and frontline workers.”
In responding to COVID-19 health threat, Brewster said the recently passed federal CARES Act includes $17.6 million for the state to distribute through PCCD and another $8.4 million for local governments.
He said the funds can be used to purchase PPE, cleaning supplies, training, travel and addressing medical needs of inmates.
“Our first-responders and frontline workers have put their lives on the line to protect our citizens,” Brewster said. “We should quickly draw down available federal money to help them through this very challenging time.”
In addition to federal funds available to the state, more than $8 million has been set aside for local governments. Allegheny County ($48,000) and McKeesport ($119,006) are among the nearly 40 counties and local government units eligible for local grants.
The local governments were deemed eligible under the local Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, Brewster said.
McKeesport – April 29, 2020 – State Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said today that he strongly backs legislation to require that 911 communication centers, police, fire and other first responders receive notification when a documented communicable disease is reported in their municipality.
The notification requirement would apply during health-related disaster declarations.
The legislation, Senate Bill 1110, passed the Senate today with a 47-3 vote.
“The men and women who respond to emergencies must have all available information about those in distress,” Brewster said. “We need to help those seeking assistance — and protect frontline workers when they are on a call.
“Specific Information about those who have contracted COVID-19 or other communicable diseases must be available so first responders can both provide proper care and protect themselves.”
Brewster said the bill would mandate that the secretary of health or a local health official notify local 911 call centers, law enforcement, fire personnel, emergency medical services and others within 24-hours of receiving information about a confirmed case of a communicable disease during a health emergency.
The bill also would require healthcare providers and nursing home administrators to report cases of communicable diseases during health emergencies to local health board or state Department of Health. The local agencies that received the notification would be required to keep the information confidential.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has opened our eyes about the need to open lines of communication during health threats,” Brewster said. “Our first responders and frontline workers must be aware of health risks and take precautions to protect themselves.”
Brewster said the bill will now go the state House of Representatives for consideration.
McKeesport – April 23, 2020 – New federal grant funds to help first-responders secure life-saving personal protection equipment (PPE) and aid them in safely and securely responding to health emergencies will soon be available, state Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) said today.
“We received notification that new federal funding will soon be available to help our first-responders acquire PPE and other supplies,” Brewster said. “The window to apply for these funds is relatively short so I encourage fire companies, ambulance, EMS and others emergency response organizations to examine information about the program and seek funding if appropriate.”
Brewster said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) indicated it will release more details of the $100 million Fiscal Year 2020 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program – COVID-19 Supplemental (AFG-S) soon.
Information specifically about the program will be available at https://www.fema.gov/grants and https://www.grants.gov/. Additional resources can be found at FEMA’s websites https://www.fema.gov/welcome-assistance-firefighters-grant-program or https://www.fema.gov
“We must continue to make resources available for our police, fire, and EMS first-responders amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brewster said. “More federal and state resources should be made available to protect everyone on the front lines.”
Brewster said the financial assistance will be provided directly to eligible organizations.
Sen. Jim Brewster
Rep. Barry Jozwiak
Op-ed by Sen. Jim Brewster and Rep. Barry Jozwiak
The horrific shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh is the latest high-profile example of police officers and other first responders using their training and professionalism in responding to a crisis. By all reports, they acted quickly, courageously, contained the situation and limited the tragic loss of life.
Our thoughts and prayers go out the victims and their families, and we thank the first-responders who were on scene.
The officers were in the line of fire and responded as they were trained to do. Local police work is buttressed by experiences gained not only from years of police work, but also by a rigorous training regime developed by Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC).
Police officers at all levels are constantly tested. They need uniform, state-of-the art training, new perspectives and insight on how to better do their jobs. Training upgrades, combined with modern equipment, plus heightened exposure to community policing makes the police better and communities safer.
It is important to help local police do their jobs better. That’s why we sponsored bipartisan legislation in both the state House of Representatives and Senate to ensure that MPOTEC had a full complement of commissioners. We were very pleased when Gov. Tom Wolf signed the legislation into law as Act 129.
The legislation allows a new member to be appointed to MPOETC.
The seat on the board was previously specified for an appointee from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, the Department of Justice advised against filling the seat, given the FBI’s reluctance to serve in a supervisory role with local police who they may have to investigate. Under the new law, the seat on the commission will now be filled by an appointee of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). The FOP representative will provide additional valuable insight and add to the expertise on the board.
The goal is for no police officer to be surprised by any situation: anticipate, train and repeat. Then expand the knowledge base and train some more. Good police work requires excellent training. Excellent training requires more resources and different perspectives on training.
Widening the perspective and gaining new insight into how to deal with conventional and unconventional law enforcement situations is critical to the safety of the officers who respond and the citizens they serve.
MPOETC was created in 1974 to establish training and certification standards for municipal police. The commission has wide responsibilities and is the arm of law enforcement training that handles certification in various aspects of the lethal weapons training, continuing education, and governs retired law enforcement officers.
MPOETC is a critical piece of our system of training local police. It is flexible and able to adjust its training regime to incorporate new initiatives and refine old practices.
The commission was originally established in response to a federal effort to improve local police training. Over the years it has been successful in developing innovative training protocols and educating police officers. It continues to evolve and adapt.
Given that it is likely that the commission will have to deal with issues such as developing uniform use-of-force policies for local municipalities and community cultural awareness training as proposed in legislation, it is fortunate that it will have a full complement of members.
Good police work begins with superb training. Pennsylvania is fortunate to have MPOETC to prepare future police officers and keep those already on the job ready to handle any situation. Our communities and our citizens deserve no less.
Sen. Jim Brewster formerly was mayor of McKeesport, a member of city council and vice-president of operations at Mellon Bank.
Rep. Barry Jozwiak was a Pennsylvania State Trooper, sheriff and farmer. He is a member of MPOETC.