The federal community oriented policing program (COPS) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week, boasting that it has added 126,000 officers to 13,000 police forces nationwide at a cost of about $14 billion. The program was created in the big federal anticrime law of 1994 signed by President Clinton, who had campaigned for 100,000 more police officers during that high-crime era. On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder and the COPS Office’s five directors over two decades, Joseph Brann, Thomas Frazier, Carl Peed, Bernard Melekian and Ronald Davis, spoke at the Justice Department about the past and future of community policing.
After alluding to this summer’s controversial police killing of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Holder said COPS and outside experts “are beginning to look systematically at the circumstances that have allowed certain communities to take proactive steps to avert potential tragedies. As it unfolds, this cutting-edge ‘Near Miss’ initiative will help us learn from the quick thinking, the smart policies, and the effective procedures that have succeeded in maintaining both public safety and officer safety during prior incidents.” The former directors, in a panel led by former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson, agreed that the COPS program has succeeded in expanding community policing nationwide and has been able to focus quickly on emerging issues, particularly terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, alleged racial bias in policing, technology and school safety.