Every year, President Bush tries to cut the money Washington spends on community-oriented policing, and Democrats put the money back in the federal budget. The San Diego Union-Tribune notes that in his final spending plan, Bush proposed eliminating the entire program, which San Diego police use for everything from better radios to patrol-car computers. Bill Clinton began COPS to hire 100,000 new police officers, with an investment of about $1 billion a year through 1999. Overall, the program has spent $12.4 billion, helped put 116,000 officers on the streets, and evolved into a system of grants that also pay for computer programs, bulletproof vests and offender re-entry.
Some argue the program was supposed to be a short-term infusion of money for police agencies, not a piggy bank for every police program that cities can’t pay for themselves. A San Diego police spokeswoman said that without COPS money, the department would be “tremendously hampered in technological development.” Said spokeswoman Monica Munoz: “It is a challenge merely to keep up with Internet predators, frauds and scams, white-collar crime, human trafficking. Even street gangs have sophisticated Web sites.” Spending on COPS has slid from a high of $1.4 billion in fiscal 2000 to this year’s $587 million. David Muhlhausen of the conservative Heritage Foundation said COPS grants were linked to small reductions in crime, that they did not stimulate local spending, and that cities use the money to supplant other department expenses. A Brookings Institution study from last year called COPS is “one of the most successful federal anti-crime measures of the 1990s.”