Axne hails passage of four public safety bills

WASHINGTON — Third district Congresswoman Cindy Axne of West Des Moines is one of the Democrats who pressed for votes on a package of public safety initiatives that cleared the U.S. House yesterday.

“I think it dispels that lie about ‘defunding’ the police,” Axne says.

The package would provide money to recruit and retain officers and would set aside funding specifically for small police departments, “to ensure that cities like Atlantic, Red Oak, our sheriffs’ departments that are under 125 people or less have their own system to go through.We’re not going to compete with the Chicagos and the New Yorks anymore to make sure that they get the funding that they need,” Axne says.

The House passed four different law enforcement measures. One would provide money to hire social workers to respond to 911 calls involving people in a mental health crisis, “so that our police officers aren’t engaged in those issues, they can focus on the job, and we can have experts who deal with those,” Axne says.

The House also voted to increase federal funding for crime victim support services and provide grants to police and prosecutors to investigate sexual assaults, shootings and homicides.

“Just to ensure that, quite honestly, we start solving more of these crimes,” Axne says, “and making sure that we’re addressing victims’ needs at the same time.”

There were some tense moments yesterday as a few progressive Democrats refused to support bringing the bills up for votes, but after months of internal negotiations, a majority of House Democrats got the bills passed. Republicans in the House voted for some of the bills and opposed others. All three Republicans from Iowa voted for the Invest to Protect Act, to provide federal grants to police departments.