U.S. Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today introduced the COPS Improvement Act of 2009, legislation to authorize $1.15 billion per year over six years for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. Created as part of the 1994 Crime Bill, the COPS program has funded more than 100,000 community police officers across the country. Many experts cite this program as an important factor in driving down crime for eight consecutive years in the 1990s. Beginning in 2001, however, the Bush Administration proposed cuts to the COPS program in each of its budget requests; despite bipartisan efforts in Congress to prevent those cuts, the Administration succeeded in eliminating the hiring portion of the program by 2005. Kohl and Feinstein, as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee which has oversight over the Department of Justice, have been long-time proponents of the COPS program.
"Common sense told us that having more police walking the beat would lead to less crime, and our experience with the COPS program proved that to be true. This unprecedented effort to put more police officers in our communities coincided with significant reductions in crime during the 1990s. Few programs can claim such a clear record of success," Kohl said. "Years of COPS funding cuts have been felt by the people who work every day to keep our communities safe, and the consequences have been real. In order to restore the safety of our neighborhoods and communities, it is imperative that we commit ourselves to restoring funding for the COPS program."
"The COPS program is vital to local law enforcement agencies, which rely on this federal funding to help provide the officers, prosecutors and technology they need to keep their communities safe," Senator Feinstein said. "Unfortunately this program has been drastically cut over the past eight years -- as violent crime has continued to rise nationwide. That has to stop. We know this program works and today it's needed more than ever. This bill will create thousands of jobs in the current economic downturn and provide state and local law enforcement with the resources they need to successfully fight crime."
The Kohl-Feinstein legislation will re-establish Congress's commitment to local law enforcement by establishing the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services as a distinct office within the Department of Justice and will re-authorize hiring programs for three specific purposes -- general community policing, local counter-terrorism officers, and school resource officers. The bill also reauthorizes funds for technology grants, community prosecutors, and makes critical improvements to ensure efficient grant management and to eliminate waste.
Specifically, the legislation will authorize $1.15 billion per year for the next six years for:
Police Hiring Grants -- The legislation authorizes $600 million per year for six years -- enough to hire up to 50,000 officers to engage in general community policing efforts, counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering efforts, and school resource officers to combat school violence, depending on the needs of the applicant community.
These resources can also be used to help communities retain officers, pay overtime costs, and reimburse officers for training costs.
Law Enforcement Technology Grants -- $350 million per year for police departments to acquire new technology and equipment for uses such as analyzing real-time crime-data and incident reports to anticipate trends in crime, mapping crime "hot spots", examining DNA evidence, or purchasing cameras for squad cars to keep records of police encounters.
Community Prosecutor Grants -- $200 million per year to help local district attorneys hire community prosecutors, who are trained to work in and around neighborhoods to prevent crime, build relationships in the community, and use the authority of the prosecutor's office to improve the quality of life in the area.
The legislation also specifically authorizes a Troops-to-Cops program to encourage local police agencies to hire former military personnel who are honorably discharged from military service or who are displaced by base closings to allow them to continue their public service.
The Senators noted that preventing crime from occurring saves taxpayers from the costs associated with incarceration and victim assistance. For that reason, a report by the Brookings Institution found "COPS to be one of the most cost-effective options available for fighting crime."
Because of the success of the program and the need for a renewed commitment to it, the bill has the support of every major law enforcement group in the nation, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), the International Brotherhood of Police Organizations, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officials (NOBLE), the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA), and the Fraternal Order of Police.