- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2001

The Bush administration wants to end funding for President Clinton's much-ballyhooed campaign pledge to put 100,000 new police officers on the street, opting instead for money to hire 1,500 school security officers and to prosecute gun violators.

The proposed budget would put to rest Mr. Clinton's $8.8 billion federal grant program, known as the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) plan, which both critics and supporters agree never achieved its goal of 100,000 new officers by the end of 2000.

The actual number of new police on the street under the COPS plan, according to separate studies, is believed to be about 60,000.

The Bush budget does not include new money for hiring officers. It proposes overall funding for community policing programs be cut by 17 percent, to $855 million from $1.03 billion this year. Republicans in Congress have long questioned whether the COPS program worked.

Instead, President Bush will ask Congress to focus on reducing school violence in the wake of a rash of shootings that have left several children and teachers dead, and wounded dozens more.

He wants Congress to approve $180 million for schools to hire 1,500 officers, more than doubling the current budget of $70 million now spent for 640 officers.

Mr. Bush also also wants Congress to approve expenditures totaling $50 million to allow local jurisdictions to prosecute gun offenders; $255 million for crime lab improvements, upgrading record-keeping and building up DNA information; and $100 million for high-tech gear, such as automated fingerprint identification systems and crime analysis software.

Additionally, Mr. Bush wants $255 million for police training programs, grants for bulletproof vests and for renewed efforts to crack down on rising methamphetamine sales.

The White House believes the program cuts are necessary to control government spending.

"It's a classic example of when Washington says we're going to fund something for one or two or three years, it's funded forever," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "Programs never go away in Washington, and that's one of the reasons the government is so big."

Mr. Clinton failed to meet his pledge of putting 100,000 more police officers on the street by the end of the year 2000, a promise he made during two presidential campaigns and in a State of the Union address. There were questions on whether the program would ever meet expectations and whether the strategy actually cut crime rates, as the administration claimed.

Approved as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the COPS program accounted for only about 60,000 new officers by the end of 2000.

While more than 30,000 police agencies nationwide accepted federal grant monies and total spending so far has passed $6.3 billion, both opponents and proponents expect some of the new hires to leave after the three-year government grants expire.

Many cities do not have funds to pick up the tab for new officers. Some police agencies already have terminated officers hired under the COPS grants after failing to find local money to supplant the federal cash.

Further, no actual assessments have been made to substantiate Mr. Clinton's claims the program has been a factor in reducing violent crime nationwide. Independent studies have shown that crime rates in comparable cities were unaffected by decisions to accept or reject COPS grants.

Three separate studies have put the number of police officers on the street due to the COPS program at about 60,000:

• The Justice Department's Office of Inspector General, which said in a July report it expected that 59,765 new officers would be in place by the end of 2000.

• The Urban Institute, which predicted in a September study the number of new officers hired and deployed under the COPS program would not reach more than 57,200.

• The Heritage Foundation, which estimated in an independent study in September that the number of new officers hired and deployed under the COPS program would peak at 57,175.

The Clinton White House has not disputed the numbers. It later said it never intended to deploy 100,000 new officers nationwide only to have approved grant applications by that time so they could be hired later.

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