NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

C.O.P.S. Flop?

July 26, 2002

In 1994, President Clinton created a federal grant program called the Community Oriented Policing Services (C.O.P.S.) to combat crime. C.O.P.S. gave money to state and local law enforcement agencies so they could hire 100,000 additional police officers. One study by the University of Nebraska, funded by C.O.P.S., found the program was marginally successful. However, a Heritage Foundation report shows critical flaws in the study.

Crime rates were the primary measure used to determine the effectiveness of federal law enforcement funding in the Nebraska study. However, many other factors affect crime rates:.

  • For example, in controlling for certain socioeconomic factors, the Nebraska study used data from 1990.
  • However, not only was C.O.P.S. not even started until 1994, but the following decade also saw critical changes in socioeconomic patterns, such as heavy migration and a 16 percent rise in the minority population.
  • The Nebraska study also failed to consider state and local expenditures on law enforcement -- for every $1 spent by C.O.P.S., state and local authorities spent more than $40 for police protection.

The Heritage report finds that the C.O.P.S. program had no effect on crime after all relevant factors were correctly controlled for.

Source: David Muhlhausen, "Research Challenges Claims of C.O.P.S. Effectiveness," CDA 02-02, April 5, 2002, Center for Data Analysis, Heritage Foundation.


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