"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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