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"There is a greater realization among all of us that in auto crashes and shootings, officers who are wearing seat belts and vests have a better chance of survival than those who are not," said James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest police union.
"I have to say, there was strong agreement on both sides for this." Key to winning union support was a provision that death benefits would not be withheld as part of sanctions in cases where officers failed to comply with mandatory armor and vest policies. "That was critical," Pasco said, adding that rules on penalties would be left to individual agencies to develop and enforce. Pasco, whose union represents more than 300,000 members, said possible discipline could range from additional training requirements to suspension.
Jim Pasco, Executive Director
FOP Lobbyists Jim Pasco and Tim Richardson held a pre-briefing at the FOP National Legislative Office.
The hard work by Jim Pasco and his crew was evident and ensures that the voice of the men and women of the FOP gets heard on Capitol Hill.
Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org
It's a perilous time for police, but the cops have a secret weapon: Jim Pasco. And Jim Pasco has a plan. Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest law enforcement union, has consistently defended officers, even rebuking President Barack Obama as unrest flared in Ferguson, Missouri. But the steady series of controversial deaths of black men - in New York, South Carolina and Baltimore - has spurred Pasco to action. His strategy for the present crisis: Slow down the pace of reform with a congressional commission to study the issues and come back with recommendations. Pasco is betting he can leverage his carefully built relationships - which extend to both sides of the aisle and into the top reaches of the White House and the Justice Department - to take the most drastic remedies, like opening a string of "pattern and practices" investigations, off the table. It's an approach reminiscent of the NRA's response to urgent calls for new gun control measures after the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. The group commissioned a private task force led by Asa Hutchinson, now the governor of Arkansas, which came back four months after the shooting with a recommendation that schools arm staff members. Pasco said he's not aware of the NRA precedent and that he doesn't want to stand in the way of good ideas that are ready to go but that the task at hand needs time. "As much as we'd like to see a result tomorrow," he says, "every law enforcement problem does not require a solution tomorrow that's going to have ramifications for 20 or 30 years." Along with trying to discourage Department of Justice investigations such as the one underway in Baltimore, Pasco is battling a bill that would restrict the flow of excess military supplies to police departments. He wants any plan for gathering data on deaths at the hands of police to be tied to one for gathering data on attacks on police officers, and he wants Congress to deal with policing reforms through a successor to the Kerner Commission, the body established by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 to address the causes of race riots in Detroit, the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles and other major cities. He has two advantages: a rare depth of connection to both parties and the job of representing a group that has both labor and law-and-order appeal. "Jim Pasco's name is on the wall of the National Democratic Club, and he was one of the closest advisers that Karl Rove had," noted Kevin O'Connor, a lobbyist for the International Association of Fire Fighters. And Pasco, 68, has weathered crisis before - most memorably as congressional and media liaison for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in the wake of its botched 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. He said he took an important lesson from the disaster. "You can never be too careful or pay too much attention to detail when planning for an operation, whether it's a political operation, a law enforcement operation or anything in between." Pasco came to the ATF in 1970 by the way of short stints in the Army and the U.S. Customs Service, and he jumped to the Fraternal Order of Police in 1995. He served as an adviser to George W. Bush's White House transition. He has also built strong relationships with Democrats, especially Sen. In one, the FOP signed on to an amicus brief backing the music industry in a lawsuit against a file-sharing service lawsuit at the same time that Sony was paying Pasco $200,000 to lobby on Internet intellectual property theft. Pasco said his bosses at the FOP have signed off on all of his private lobbying clients. That same year, Pasco spoke forcefully against the use of civilian video of police activity, asserting that amateur video is less trustworthy than patrol cars' dash cameras because it is not preserved in a chain of custody. In April, a bystander's cellphone video was instrumental in determining a South Carolina officer had shot a man fatally in the back as he ran away. Pasco said he's not surprised by Driscoll's reaction. Pasco maintains good relations with the Obama administration. Pasco describes his communications with Gupta as "very positive" and said that the FOP's position on her nomination will depend on the department's handling of calls for these investigations. Pasco is also working against a bill introduced in the House by tea party Republican Raúl Labrador of Idaho and Democrat Hank Johnson of Georgia, a CBC member, that would "de-militarize police" by ending the transfer of certain equipment, including high-caliber weapons and armored vehicles, from the Department of Defense to local police. Pasco and the reformers will maneuver in the coming weeks, with hearings planned by the House and Senate judiciary committees, but don't expect Pasco to burn any bridges.