A decade and an estimated 118,000 police officers later, the COPS community policing program started by President Bill Clinton and criticized by some Republicans — appears to be coming to an end, says the Washington Post. After sharp cutbacks under President Bush, the program handed out its last scheduled round of grants for hiring police officers this month. The administration’s 2005 budget proposal contains no money for more, although Congress may provide some funds. Bush aides say the program has more than met its original goal of putting 100,000 new officers on U.S. streets. They stress that COPS will continue to offer grants for new technology, school-resource officers and law enforcement training. The administration has allocated $97 million for such programs in the fiscal year beginning tomorrow, along with money for other law enforcement initiatives.
The decision to phase out grants for regular police officers has drawn criticism from law enforcement organizations and many Democrats. Sen. John F. Kerry said this month that police officers were “tired of a president who takes cops off the street with one hand and puts military assault weapons back on with the other,” referring to the Sept. 13 expiration of the federal ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons. Since its inception in 1994, the COPS program has handed out more than $9 billion in grants for the police hiring program. The federal government paid for 75 percent of the cost of each officer over the first three years; localities were required to come up with the other 25 percent, and also had to agree to fully fund a fourth year on their own. Outside studies showed problems, including a 1999 inspector general’s conclusion that thousands of officers were not retained after the grant periods had expired and that some departments were illegally using grant money for existing operations. Conservatives objected to dedicating federal funds for local law enforcement, arguing there was scant evidence that COPS contributed to the plunging crime rates of the 1990s.