NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"COPS" Figures Overstated

May 22, 2000

President Clinton claims his administration added 100,000 police officers to the streets "ahead of schedule," under the program known as Community Oriented Policing Services -- an initiative included in the 1994 Crime Act. Vice President Gore credits COPS for helping to make America "safer than it has been in decades."

But a close examination of the program reveals far fewer officers have been hired under the federal program than are being claimed. Moreover, COPS grants have been misused by some localities -- spawning delays, misunderstandings and scandals.

  • The Justice Department admits that only 49,000 new COPS are out there.
  • The number jumps to 60,000 if those who have been redeployed are counted -- not new police, but rather the government's estimate of the officer time saved, in years, by COPS grants for computers, updated equipment and civilian employees.
  • Moreover, Justice boosts its count by including about 2,000 police hired under a federal program that preceded COPS.
  • In some large departments, rising attrition rates have surpassed the inflow of new COP hires -- resulting in a loss of anywhere from 5,000 to 13,000 personnel.

Criminologists say they have found no correlation between COPS and crime rates. Lawrence Sherman, a criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania, charges that the program puts funds "where votes are, not where the violence is."

Source: Joe Mathews, "Despite Its Successes, COPS Program Suffers Its Keystone Moments," Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2000.


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