|Submit a Grant|
|View all Grants|
ELSAG North America
Police Grants Article
House vote expands Clinton-era police program
By Jim Abrams
New Orleans Police Department Recruit Cmdr. Clarence J. Gillard instructs the recruit class at the police academy in New Orleans. (AP Photo)
|Special PoliceOne Coverage:|
Law Enforcement and the Economy
WASHINGTON — The House approved money Thursday to help local police departments hire and retain 50,000 officers over the next five years, expanding a Clinton-era community policing program that struggled to survive under the Bush administration.
The House legislation authorizes spending of $1.8 billion a year over the next five years for the Community Oriented Policing Services grant program, signed into law in 1994 in a drive by President Bill Clinton to put 100,000 new police officers on the streets of the nation's towns and cities.
The measure, which now goes to the Senate, is the second thrust this year by President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress to revive what is known as the COPS program.
The economic stimulus package Obama signed into law in February included $1 billion for COPS, saying it would give local police departments hit by budget cuts the backing they needed to avoid layoffs and hiring freezes. The stimulus money is enough to retain or create about 5,500 jobs.
Competition for the money has been intense. The Justice Department's COPS office already has received grant requests from local police departments totaling $8.4 billion, said spokesman Corey Ray.
The House bill, passed on a 342-78 vote, provides $1.25 billion a year for five years to hire 10,000 beat cops a year, $350 million for technology grants and $200 million for community prosecutors in areas of high crime. Obama's budget proposal now before Congress also endorses the addition of 50,000 officers under COPS.
Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
The attempt to expand the program is a dramatic shift from the last administration, when President George W. Bush consistently tried to trim the COPS budget, questioning the federal role in local law enforcement and the effectiveness of the program. In recent years there has been almost no money for new hiring.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., the bill's sponsor, argued that the COPS program, when it was in full force in the 1990s, was an "unqualified success... Crime went down because there were police officers doing their job."
Since its inception, the program has spent $12.4 billion and made grants to hire 117,000 police officers.
Republicans argued that the spending has been excessive and that COPS played only a small role in the drop in crime in the 1990s.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, took issue with boosting money for the program by 72 percent when the rates of violent and property crimes were showing declines. "Why are we increasing spending on a law enforcement program that has mixed results," he asked. "This is not a good return on investment."
Expansion of the COPS program does have the strong support of major police organizations.
"It's good for the economy but also good for policing," said Russell Laine, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Laine, chief of police in the village of Algonquin northwest of Chicago, said COPS allowed his small force to initiate new efforts to fight drug abuse, do bicycle patrols, organize neighborhood watches and interact with the business community.
"The program is incredibly important," said Andrea Mournighan, director of governmental affairs for the National Association of Police Organizations. Crime goes up when the economy goes bad, she said, and "not enough officers on the street means there is no one there to deter crime."
Under the original Clinton plan enacted as part of a crime bill in 1994, the federal government paid 75 percent of the cost for three years, with a salary and benefit cap of $75,000 per officer. The Weiner bill maintains the 75-25 federal-local spending ratio, but removes the cap.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
The Clinton program quickly ran into political trouble when Republicans took control of the House in 1995 and objected to the greater federal role in local law enforcement. In late 1995 the COPS program was one of the major areas of dispute during the standoff between Clinton and Republicans that led to a partial government shutdown.