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Back to Archives | Back to March 2012 Contents 

President's Message

An Assault on the COPS Office

Walter A. McNeil, Chief of Police, Quincy Police Department, Quincy, Florida

here can be little doubt that the community policing philosophy has caused professional policing to witness a dramatic change in the last 20 years. This edition of Police Chief is dedicated to exploring recent trends and new ideas in community policing.

Law enforcement has been effective in fighting crime and protecting our communities because we are more connected than ever with the communities we serve. We have set up volunteer programs within our departments, attended neighborhood watch meetings, put resource officers in schools, and participated in gang-prevention efforts. In short, we now realize that we simply cannot arrest our way out of crime problems in our communities; we must all work together to include prevention.

Law enforcement has seen great progress with the community policing model and experienced great success. In 1994, the federal government heard our concerns and created the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office within the U.S. Department of Justice. COPS office programs have put more than 100,000 new officers on the streets and have allowed the law enforcement community to hire officers to perform intelligence, antiterror, and homeland security duties; and recruit inactive military personnel to pursue the law enforcement profession.

This is why the IACP is perplexed and disheartened over proposals that would eliminate the COPS office. Just this past fall, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to eliminate the COPS office. This is just not common sense. In addition to putting more than 100,000 officers on the streets, the COPS office also awarded more than $10 billion in funds for several critical programs such as combating methamphetamine production and trafficking; aiding tribal law enforcement; combating gun trafficking; and establishing school-based partnerships between local law enforcement agencies and local school systems to combat crime, gangs, and drug activities.

Additionally, the COPS office has also

  • awarded more than 42,400 grants to advance community policing to more than 13,600 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies;
  • produced more than 700 publications on topics covering the field of public safety, from building communities of trust to effective homicide investigations;
  • trained more than a half million law enforcement personnel, community members, and government officials on topics such as ethics, integrity, and crime analysis;
  • funded a network of regional community policing institutes; and
  • provided free technical assistance on all grant programs.

What all of these statistics make clear is that the COPS office is a valuable and critical resource to the state, tribal, and local law enforcement community. It significantly strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to combat crime and violence in our communities. Eliminating or reducing the COPS office and its programs would be devastating to the nearly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States.

Over a dozen studies have proven the effectiveness of the COPS office, and it is estimated that more than 90 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies have implemented community-oriented policing strategies. The COPS office is also addressing critical issues in the law enforcement community, such as officer safety and wellness and reducing officer injuries and fatalities.

Unfortunately, as bad as cuts and proposed cuts to the COPS office are, this is a symptom of a larger illness with state, local, and tribal law enforcement assistance programs. For instance, in fiscal year (FY) 2010, the Edward R. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) was allocated $511 million; $494 million in FY 2011; and, in FY 2012, $470 million—a cut of 9 percent over three fiscal years. Byrne-JAG provides funds to assist states and units of local government in controlling and preventing drug abuse, crime, and violence; and in improving the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, these cuts only continue a ten-year history of decline. In FY 2003, the same programs funded by Byrne-JAG received $1.05 billion, marking a 56 percent reduction to date.

Grants administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are also under attack.

  • From FY 2010 to FY 2011, the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP) was cut by 22 percent. The LETPP is the only funding source that is dedicated solely to terrorism prevention and to meeting law enforcement’s unique mission to detect and prevent future terrorist attacks.
  • From FY 2010 to FY 2011, the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) was cut by 16 percent. The UASI aids urban areas, some of which carry the highest risk of a terrorist attack, in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism.
  • From FY 2010 to FY 2011, the State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) was cut by 15 percent. The SHSGP aids states in their homeland security strategies including planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise needs on the state and local level.

Unfortunately, as dramatic as these cuts were, funding for these vital programs was slashed by an additional 32 percent in FY 2012. These cuts have vastly accelerated the steep decline in DHS assistance funding experienced over the past few years.

What all of these cuts make clear is that more than ever, now is the time for us to rise up and speak out against these assaults on the way we do business. The IACP’s fear is that, if things continue down this path, we will be forced to revert to a reactive rather than proactive policing model. We must fight to ensure that we have enough officers on the street, the resources to prevent crime from happening in the first place, and the capabilities to protect the communities we serve. ■

Please cite as:

Walter A. McNeil, "An Assault on the COPS Office," President’s Message, The Police Chief 79 (March 2012): 6.

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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXIX, no. 3, March 2012. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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