Criminal justice advocates are encouraged by the news that House Democrats included $4 billion for state and local law enforcement, including $3 billion for Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, in their version of the economic stimulus bill. The National Criminal Justice Association, which represents state and local agencies in Washington, said that additional funds would help fight reported spikes in crime linked to the economic downturn. A proposal to spend $1 billion for the COPS hiring grant program would allow communities to hire 13,000 new police officers for three years.
The Byrne grants have funded drug task force officers, police investigators, prosecutors, crime and forensic analysts, public defenders, and victims' services counselors, among others. In 2007, Congress cut the program’s budget by 67 percent, from $520 million to $170 million. Whether anticrime programs will get anywhere near $4 billion is an open question, with some Republican leaders saying that spending proposals in the House Democrats’ bill are excessive and Senate Democrats yet to be heard from. It also is not certain what line items the incoming Obama administration will fight for.