If House Republicans can’t terminate COPS …
Then they deserve to face primary opponents in the 2012 primaries. That is, the 70 House GOPers who joined 158 Democrats on Wednesday voting for $298 million to keep the failed Community Oriented Policing Services program alive.
For those who don’t recall, COPS was an outgrowth of President Bill Clinton’s promise to put 100,000 new police on American streets to combat what was then perceived as a national crime wave. The COPS program provided federal grants to local authorities to fund three-fourths of the cost of new police hires and new equipment such as vehicles and computers. That delighted congressmen from both parties, as well as governors, mayors and county executives, who love to announce new federal grants. Naturally, as the crime rate decreased throughout the 1990s, Clinton and Democrats in Congress and elsewhere claimed credit for the COPS program (an aging population actually accounted for most of the decrease). President George W. Bush continued the program, but at a much-reduced funding level. In 2009, President Barack Obama used economic stimulus funds to create a COPS 2.0 program that duplicates all of the problems with COPS 1.0 and adds some new ones.
As with most everything else in government, the COPS reality was far different from the claims of its political supporters and beneficiaries. Despite spending more than $11 billion between 1995 and 2003 when its annual funding was significantly reduced, the COPS program never reached its goal of putting 100,000 new cops on the streets. At best, it temporarily funded about 57,000 new positions, according to a study funded by the Justice Department, while the Heritage Foundation’s David Muhlausen estimated that COPS grants funded no more than 40,000. Even worse, in the vast majority of crime categories, multiple studies found that getting COPS grants had, at best, negligible effects on crime rates, no matter the population, demographics or economic standing of recipient jurisdictions. In short, the COPS initiative was an expensive failure that achieved nothing other than creating more photo ops for professional politicians.
And yet 70 House Republicans couldn’t summon the guts to put an end to COPS funding once and for all. Notable among those 70 were several members of the House GOP leadership, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, as well as conservative stalwarts like Rep.
Patrick McHenry of Pennsylvania, Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina and Rep. Richard Hanna of New York. If these Republicans can’t bring themselves to end a failed federal program like COPS, why should they expect voters to keep them in Washington?