COPS: Yet Another Wasteful Government Program

Don’t let the name fool you. Just because Congress gives a bill a catchy title that tugs on the heartstrings does not mean the program must be continued. Congress does this so that anyone who opposes the bill can be vilified as against [insert catchy name of bill]. Examples include the Violence Against Women Act (“you’re in favor of beating women!”) or the firefighter grant program (“you hate firefighters and want America to burn!”). Now we get the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program (H.R.1896 / S.207). Be prepared for the left to claim that conservatives hate policemen and want crime to increase. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The COPS program, like the firefighter grant program, is wasteful and ineffective. Basically, the federal government takes control from the states in order to fund local police agencies. The result is not more cops and increased safety; but local governments’ increased dependence on such federal spending. When the federal government steps in to provide funding, state and local governments stop budgeting for such spending. Simply put, they change their business model. When the federal money ends, so do the jobs, because the local authorities no longer plan for that spending. This then requires the federal government to continue funding forever!

This also gives control to the federal government because the feds then control how that money is spent. According to The Heritage Foundation’s David Muhlhausen:

“When Congress subsidizes local law enforcement in this manner, it effectively reassigns to the federal government the powers and responsibilities that fall squarely within the expertise, historical control, and constitutional authority of state and local governments. The responsibility to combat ordinary crime at the local level belongs wholly, if not exclusively, to state and local governments.”

The COPS program was supposed to add 100,000 local police jobs and decrease crime. It has done neither.  Instead of hiring new police officers, local authorities used the money to pay the salaries of existing officers. Some of the money was used to pay administrative personnel, other employees, office expenses, and equipment, rather than hire new officers. As of 2008, it was estimated that just 40,000 officers were added even with $11 billion in funding since 1995.

According to a Government Accountability Office study, the program made only a “modest” reduction in crime between 1994 and 2001, just 1.3%. But leave it to liberals to try to try and increase funding (subs. req’d) for a failed program in order to claim they are on the side of the American people. Forget that we can’t afford this program, or that it doesn’t achieve its goal, it’s shaping up to be just another election year talking point!

Instead of the federal government acting as the middleman in funding local and state police forces, why not just leave that money in the states? This is why we need to reduce the role of the federal government – reduce federal taxes and give states the flexibility and responsibility for funding their own programs.

One-hundred and forty-seven House Republicans voted to expand the wasteful firefighter grant program. Let’s see if any of them – or their Senate colleagues – have learned their lesson and choose not to waste taxpayer funds on the failed COPS program.

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