The 10-year-old COPS program started by Bill Clinton to hire 100,000 more community police officers has spent $10 billion. USA Today says that politicians and police chiefs credit COPS as one reason for the sharp decline in crime rates that began in the late 1990s. USA Today says that federal audits of just 3 percent of COPS grants have alleged that $277 million was misspent. Tens of thousands of jobs funded were never filled, or were not filled for long, auditors found. There’s little evidence that COPS was a big factor in reducing crime.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Tracy Henke, who oversees the COPS program, says most police departments that got grants spent them effectively. She says the Bush administration wants to shut down COPS to cut costs, and because the program has “met its objective.” She acknowledges that when it came to tracking the money, “it’s possible that all the necessary controls weren’t there.” The White House Office of Management and Budget said that COPS had put “fewer than 90,000” officers on the street. A University of Pennsylvania study in 2002 found that the number probably would wind up closer to 82,000 – or 30 percent fewer cops than Justice’s estimate. University of Pennsylvania criminologists Jeffrey Roth and Christopher Koper said that while some departments misused COPS money, many others that hired officers with funds from the program couldn’t afford to keep them once the grants expired.