NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Numbers Don't Add Up In "COPS" Program

April 13, 1999

Auditors are uncovering some fishy goings-on in President Clinton's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. That's the 1994 initiative that was supposed to add 100,000 more police to streets in five years.

While the Clinton administration claims it has been a factor in reducing crime, the crime statistics have been falling since 1991. Moreover, there are costly problems with the $8.8 billion program in more than 100 communities.

  • For example, Nassau County, N.Y., got $26 million to add 383 police to its beat -- but the number of county-funded police officers actually declined by 218 from May 1995 to May 1998.
  • Richmond, Calif., took $944,000 in grants to add nine officers -- but used the money to fund vacant positions instead.
  • Auditors looking into $440,000 in grants to Alexandria, Va., found no documentation that equipment purchased with the money put more officers on the street as pledged.
  • Spokane, Wash., added only a couple dozen officers -- although it was credited with adding more than 90.

A few weeks ago, Vice President Al Gore claimed COPS had already added 92,000 police, but experts report that many of the positions are fictitious.

Law enforcement specialists point out that crime has fallen in many communities which did not get grants -- calling into question just how effectively the money is being used.

Nevertheless, the Clinton administration is pushing a new $6.4 billion plan to add up to 50,000 more police on the beat.

Source: Editorial, "100,000-Cops Program Proves to Be Mostly Hype," USA Today, April 13, 1999.


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