COPS funding causes rejoice, disdain across states

This week Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder announced $1 billion in Recovery Act spending through the Department of Justice COPS program. The COPS Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) is expected to create or preserve nearly 5,000 law enforcement positions at state, local and tribal agencies across the country. But as some cities rejoiced in the announcement of funding, others were left with empty hands.

“A big part of the Recovery Act is about building communities – making them as strong as they can be, allowing every American family to live a better life than the one they are leading now,” Vice President Biden said during the announcement ceremony in Philadelphia, Pa. “And we can’t achieve the goal of stronger communities without supporting those who keep our streets safe.”

COPS arraThe Justice Department received more than 7,200 applications for more than 39,000 officer positions, representing a total of $8.3 billion in funding, the White House said.

Attorney General Eric Holder said, “The tremendous demand for these grants is indicative of both the tough times our states, cities and tribes are facing, and the unyielding commitment by law enforcement to making our communities safer.”

But the disbursement of those funds was not without some controversy between the winners and losers.

The Winners

California will receive a full 21 percent of the $1 billion CHRP funds, receiving $211 million for the purpose of hiring or rehiring 649 police officers in 109 law enforcement agencies.

“Ensuring the safety of California residents is a top priority of my Administration – and I want to congratulate local agencies across California for successfully applying for these Recovery funds,” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Massachusetts will receive nearly $30 million, with the city of Boston bringing home the lion’s share, landing $11.8 million for fifty officers.

Illinois will receive $26 million, half of which will go to Chicago.

The Losers

According to the DOJ website FAQ, CHRP applicants were awarded based on their jurisdiction’s fiscal health, UCR-reported crime, and community policing plans. Fiscal health factors accounted for 50 percent of the total application index, and the crime statistics and community policing plans accounted for the other 50 percent. Additionally, COPS is legally obligated to distribute half of the available funding to law enforcement agencies serving populations of more than 150,000 and the other half to those serving populations less than that level.

Given those provisos, not all the boys in blue got funding. Pittsburgh, Houston, Seattle and Phoenix were among the cities who’s lack of funding whatsoever raised some eye brows. It seems these cities simply did not have the fiscal problems or crime statistics to warrant money.

“It is a good thing that the city crime stats are down,” Pittsburgh police chief Nate Harper told the Associated Press. But he called it a “sour note” that lower crime means less money from Washington.

A loser turned winner

New York City was also left out of the COPS purse, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the decision “perverse”. He felt money was being sent to failing programs, instead of ones that worked, according to the AP. The city’s police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, and Gov. David A. Paterson also spoke out against the decision at a news conference, where they expressed their disappointment with the Justice Department’s decision to exclude the city from a separate stream of stimulus money.

But, a New York Times article this week also found the city will receive $35 million through Department of Homeland Security stimulus money, which can be used to hire more police officers.

The money would come through the DHS’s transit security grant program, which is distributing about $150 million in stimulus funds. But the New York Police Department would use it to hire about 120 recruits, the article said.

For details about the program and an interactive map, click here.