USA Today Ignores Fed Role in Police Underfunding
Under the headline Economy Limiting Services of Local Police, The USA Today’s Kevin Johnson reported May 18th:
The recession is altering local law enforcement in the U.S. by forcing some agencies to close precincts, merge with other departments or even shut down.
“For the first time, because of the economy, police departments … may have to change how they do business,” says Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank.
But Johnson fails to report that it is the federal government that first changed how police departments “do business” and the feds did it long before the current recession hit. The Clinton administration’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) ushered in the first major change in how many local police forces obtained funding, and not for the better. Heritage Foundation fellow David Muhlhausen reports:
During the 1990s, Boston accepted millions of dollars in COPS grants to hire additional police officers. When accepting these grants, Boston promised to retain these officers and maintain the same staffing levels after the federal contributions expired. Instead of developing a plan to retain the officers, Mayor Menino decided to downsize officer staffing after the grants expired, in violation of the federal grant rules. The number of Boston police officers declined from 2,252 in 1999 to 2,036 in 2004–a 9.6 percent decrease. … Mayor Menino appears to have viewed COPS grants as an entitlement to perpetual federal funding for the officers funded under the original grants.
Not only does Johnson fail to report on the federal government’s role in encouraging irresponsible budgeting for police force funding, he casts the federal government as savior:
The Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus plan gives about $4 billion to local law enforcement, including $1 billion to hire and retain officers.
A better report would examine how many localities looking for bailout cash received COPS grants in the past and how many had any real plans on how to survive without federal money in the future.