The House yesterday voted to authorize $1.15 billion a year for a Clinton-era community policing program, Newsday reports. Leading sponsor Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) said the bill would restore money for local and state police departments to hire up to 50,000 more beat police officers, including 3,000 for New York City. Departments would be allowed to hire specialist “terrorism cops” and school resource officers. Some $350 million would be allocated in grants for police agencies to purchase new technology, such as laptop computers for patrol cars. “Boots on the ground” are the most important way to fight crime, Weiner said, noting that law enforcement departments have been strained by their new anti-terrorism responsibilities since Sept. 11, 2001.
Under President George W. Bush, the COPS program’s budget was cut, and its funding for hiring new officers ended. Opponents of the program argue that its effectiveness hasn’t been proved, and that it encouraged states to use federal money to replace, rather than supplement, their own funding for law enforcement. Weiner’s bill secured the backing of members of the Judiciary Committee, including Republicans, after it was amended to include an audit of the program and some curbs on the awarding of grants. Said Weiner: “Even in the Alice in Wonderland world of Washington it should not be a tough sell.”