COPS got full funding once in four years
As a candidate in 2008, Barack Obama said he would fully fund a federal program called Community Oriented Policing Services.
Community oriented policing refers to a movement, expanded by President Bill Clinton's anti-crime law in 1994, that emphasizes crime prevention by getting officers out of their patrol cars to interact with citizens. The president's 2013 budget defines community policing as "proactive collaborative efforts and the use of problem-solving techniques to prevent and respond to crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.”
The federal program offers grants for community oriented policing officers. Some of the money also goes to community policing in Native American communities and drug enforcement efforts to combat the manufacture and use of methamphetamine.
In his campaign promise, Obama didn't specify what it would mean to fully fund community policing. We searched government databases for contemporary definitions of the phrase "fully fund” and dredged up a press release from Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., decrying 2007 cuts in funding by then-President George W. Bush. It says Tierney was calling for Bush to "fully fund the COPS program at the already approved $1 billion funding level.”
In an April 2008 Democratic primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Obama, Clinton said she planned to bring back community policing the way it was under her husband. That would also mean at least $1 billion.
Finally in a 2010 letter to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., also paired the phrase "fully fund” with "$1 billion.” Levin described the program's history, how it used to receive more than $1 billion per year under Clinton, but experienced cuts under Bush.
If we accept that Obama was using the same definition, then he kept the promise in 2009, but not in the following years. The bar chart we created below compares his budget requests with appropriations enacted by Congress, based on figures supplied by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
Keep in mind that 2009 got a one-time boost of $1 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the economic stimulus. In this way, Obama met his goal by adding stimulus money to dollars already set aside in Bush's final budget. The stimulus helped city police departments, local sheriffs' offices and tribal law enforcement offices retain officers or hire new recruits.
In each of Obama's proposed budgets for 2010-13, he requested below $1 billion. So far Congress enacted less than his request each time.
Finally, we should note that Obama made this promise before the severity of the Great Recession was widely recognized. It's reasonable to think he reduced his budget requests in light of that. Still, we're rating Obama's promise here on its ultimate outcome.
Obama said he would fully fund the federal community policing program, using an implied definition of $1 billion per year. Since the program received well below $1 billion for each of the last three years, we rate this a Promise Broken.
Email interview with Ray Corey, spokesman for Community Oriented Policing Services, Nov. 8, 2012
Rep. Tierney Calls for More Funding for COPS Program President's FY07 Budget Severely Cuts Funding for COPS, 2006
Letter Requesting Full Funding of the Community Oriented Policing Services C.O.P.S, March 19, 2010
Project Vote Smart, Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate Between Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), April 16, 2008
Increased funding for COPS program under Obama
It has been nearly a year and a half since our last update on President Barack Obama's campaign pledge to fully fund the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which helps local agencies pay for more police officers. At the time, we rated the promise In the Works, since the economic stimulus package approved by President Obama in February 2009 included $1 billion for COPS hiring grants. The House had also authorized $1.8 billion a year over the next five tears for the COPS grant program, including $1.25 billion for hiring, and the rest for prosecutors, crime-fighting technology and aid to high-crime communities.
Since then, Congress has passed the 2010 budget and the White House submitted its proposal for 2011, so we wanted to revisit the promise.
Let's start with 2010. In his budget request for the year, Obama asked for $761 million. Congress was generous, however, and appropriated $791.6 million, with $298 million specifically marked for COPS Hiring Grants to hire or retain approximately 1,400 police officers.
In his budget request for 2011, Obama asked for $690 million, about a $100 million decrease from 2010. On June 29, 2010, however, the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee allocated a little over $729 million. The Senate Committee on Appropriations was not as generous -- the program received only $586 million. At some point in the future, the House and the Senate leaders will have to meet and reconcile the final amount.
For some perspective, in 2007, Congress appropriated $542 million for the program. In 2008, it was $587 million, and in 2009, COPS received $551 million. That was despite President Bush's attempts to drastically reduce funding -- in 2008, he asked for a 94 percent cut, citing a General Accounting Office report that questioned the cost-effectiveness of the program in reducing crime.
On the campaign trail, Obama said that he would fully fund the COPS program. The 2009 stimulus package included $1 billion for COPS hiring grants. The 2010 budget provided $791 million for the program, a significant increase over previous years. Obama only asked for $690 million for 2011, but that is still above the 2007, 2008, and 2009 funding levels. Still, it appears as though the White House is facing a roadblock in the Senate, which has only appropriated $586 million. We'd like to see how the budget process plays out before we issue a final ruling, so for now, this promise stays In the Works.
Justice Policy Institute, More of the Same: President Obama"s budget has too little invested in long term solutions, and is likely to contribute to rising incarceration rates, accessed Sept. 29, 2010
House Appropriations Committee, FY 2008 Omnibus Summary, Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee, Dec. 16, 2007
Committees on Appropriations, FY 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Summary, Dec. 8, 2009
House Appropriations Committee, FY 2011 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Summary, June 29, 2010
Senate Committee on Appropriations, FY 2011 Appropriations Summary, July 21, 2010
Money in stimulus and budget for COPS
The COPS program, which helps local agencies pay for more police officers, was a pet project of Vice President Joe Biden. Back in 1994, Biden championed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which sought — through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) — to put 100,000 additional police officers on America's streets. However, funding was drastically reduced and the the program faltered under the Bush administration, which cited a General Accounting Office report that questioned the cost-effectiveness of the program in reducing crime.
As president, Barack Obama has taken several steps to restore the COPS program.
The economic stimulus package approved by Obama in February included $1 billion for COPS hiring grants, to fund the hiring of more than 7,000 police and sheriffs deputies in 2009 and 2010. The Obama administration's proposed 2010 budget also included $298 million for COPS hiring grants, with an eye toward moving closer to the goal of hiring 50,000 police officers nationwide.
And in April, the House authorized an additional $1.8 billion a year over the next five tears for the COPS grant program, including $1.25 billion for hiring and the rest for prosecutors, crime-fighting technology and aid to high-crime communities.
That puts this promise firmly In the Works.
Newsday, "Obama's first 100 Days," April 24, 2009
Orlando Sentinel, "House OKs 50,000 'cops on streets,'" by David Lightman, April 24, 2009
Office of Management and Budget, "President's Budget: Fact Sheets on Key Issues"