- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2008


President Bush’s fiscal 2009 budget request for the Justice Department continues his post-September 11 trend of increasing spending for the FBI’s anti-terrorism efforts and curtailing federal money for local law enforcement grant programs.

Per Mr. Bush’s request, spending for the FBI would grow from $6.51 billion to $7.11 billion. The increase would be offset by curbing spending on grants to police in local communities, including Edward Byrne discretionary grants and other DOJ grants that would be trimmed to $813 million (compared with the $2.68 billion spent in 2007).

This sort of tough love on the part of the administration would require local law enforcement agencies to tighten their belts and look to state, county and municipal governments to clean up their communities, rather than relying on handouts from the federal government, which is facing record deficit projections. (See the editorial “Fiscal clarity” elsewhere on this page.) It also would require localities to take a sharp look at their priorities by eliminating wasteful and duplicative efforts that often come with onerous mandates from federal bureaucrats. Local beat police best understand the unique needs of their neighborhoods.

These federal programs can provide a false sense of security and diminish the power of local grass-roots organizers to effectively police their communities. Officers should be on the streets rather than behind desks filling out mounds of paperwork to feed the federal bureaucracy.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has criticized Mr. Bush’s proposed cuts to programs such as the ineffective Community Oriented Policing Services and Weed & Seed. He has also lambasted the Bush administration for proposing cuts to the Office of Violence Against Women, which would be cut by nearly a third, from $400 million to $280 million. Most of these and other programs that would be cut have produced at best dubious results.

Mr. Conyers, a proponent of big-government mandates, would rather see money funneled to these programs than allow state and local governments to prioritize their own policies and allocate dollars as they see fit.

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