Former President Bill Clinton told CNN this week, “I worked hard to put 100,000 police on the street and the crime rate went way down.” The Washington Post asks, “Does one thing have much to do with the other? Leaving aside whether there were 100,000 new officers (it might be 88,000 “sworn officer-years”), when asked whether COPS had much of an impact on crime, the answer is “maybe—but only modestly.” For one thing, the Government Accountability Office has said that COPS spending amounted to 1 percent of total local expenditures for police services.
The Post says the reduction that could be attributed to COPS was just a tiny part of the overall reduction in crime. The strong economy under Clinton's watch may have had more of impact than his much touted COPS program in reducing crime, as it kept people employed. Even cities such as Oklahoma City, which did not participate in COPS, saw a reduction in crime. John Worrall and Tomislav Kovandzic concluded that there may be a modest link between police levels and crime. The Post’s fact checker gives Clinton “three Pinocchios,” concluding that “he needs to be more careful about how he frames the impact.”