San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders is critical of federal Byrne grants. Named after New York City police officer Edward Byrne, who was killed by drug dealers, the grants have provided about $500 million annually to local law-enforcement efforts since the program was signed into law by the first President Bush. Saunders says that critics on the left and the right consider the program ill-conceived and ineffective, but Congress keeps pouring millions into it. The White House Office of Management and Budget studied the Byrne grants and gave the program a 13 percent rating for results and accountability, a grade of an F-.
President George W. Bush has reduced Byrne grants and now wants to eliminate them. The OMB’s Alex Conant said that “federal law-enforcement funds need to be spent where they are most effective and Byrne grants have failed to demonstrate significant effectiveness.” Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Ia.), Mark Dayton, (D-Mn.),and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) all have boasted that they want to keep bankrolling Byrne grants. Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance, which opposes the war on drugs, believes that abuses such as the Tulia travesty occur when “the federal government is handing money out like candy,” and there is no real accountability. Piper also argues that “the war on drugs is an area that you could cut without political consequences.”