Detroit area police agencies, already hampered by a reduction in state money and a poor economy, are bracing for more cutbacks as Congress moves to shrink two federal programs that pumped more than $23 million into Michigan law enforcement last year, the Detroit News reports. Local departments use money from the federal Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, program and Local Law Enforcement Block Grants to buy video cameras for squad cars, pay officers overtime for homeland security patrols, and for other expenses.
Under an appropriations bill scheduled for a Senate vote later this month, COPS could be cut by about 20 percent, to about $756 million. Local Law Enforcement Block Grant funds would drop 44 percent, from $400 million to $225 million.
The cuts worry police chiefs. “The federal government is not assisting local law enforcement as it did in previous years,” said William Dwyer, Farmington Hills police chief. “The concern is we're on the front lines. We're fighting crime. We're fighting terrorism. I think it's ludicrous … to hit law enforcement.” His department received a $31,000 block grant in 2003 for video cameras in squad cars.
Mount Clemens planned to use its $70,000 grant toward putting an officer in its four elementary schools. The police received COPS money in late October with the idea of reapplying for annual awards for the next three years. “I don't see any reason to hire and then put them out of work for a year,” Chief L.J. McKeown Jr. said.
When police departments need funds to expand anti-crime efforts or try new ones, federal grants are usually a reliable source. In 2003, Michigan received $14 million in COPS funding and $9.5 million in block grants.
The extra money doesn't solve local departments’ budget problems. Last year, the Livonia Police Department got nearly $35,000 in block grants to upgrade computer equipment as part of a $4 million project that will connect it to other local enforcement computers. The city of Livonia expects to lose $500,000 from the state this year in revenue sharing, causing a ripple that will affect the Police Department. Dearborn is facing similar budget problems. While the department received $132,000 in block grant money last year for computer crime investigating tools to halt white-collar fraud, it lost nine officers through attrition to pare $1.1 million from the budget. “It's fun to have all this money, but then how do you function afterward?,” said Cpl. Jerry Blevins, the department's grant manager.
The block grants are intended to underwrite projects that reduce crime and improve public safety. COPS funding allows departments to hire officers and supplement overtime budgets without using local taxpayer dollars. Both Wayne and Macomb counties will use COPS funding for homeland security overtime.