His Life Matters “Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinner’s saints,” The Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former […]
Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), co-chair of the House Law Enforcement Caucus, says the Trump plan to downgrade the Community Oriented Policing Services Office is an “odd way…to show support for the brave men and women in blue who rely on the office and grants to keep our neighborhoods safe.”
The co-chairman of the House Law Enforcement Caucus has criticized a Trump Administration proposal to downgrade the U.S. Justice Department’s 24-year-old Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office.
In its budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 that was sent to Congress on Monday, the White House said it planned to fold the COPS agency into DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs and asked Congress to reduce the unit’s budget drastically, from about $137 last year million to $64 million next year for police hiring
Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) said, “Eliminating the COPS Office and slashing funding for the COPS Hiring Program grants in half is an odd way for President Trump to show support for the brave men and women in blue who rely on the office and grants to keep our neighborhoods safe.”
Pascrell noted that 135 House members signed a letter drafted by Pascrell with Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) urging Trump to keep COPS an independent agency with DOJ and to maintain its funding. “I will fight these cuts tooth and nail to ensure they do not happen.”
The Justice Department portrayed the plan as an efficiency move, saying that having another agency administer policing grants along with a long list of other federal aid already being dispensed could allow for the elimination of more than 200 jobs in the department, including about one-third of the COPS Office staff.
DOJ contended that the change would “centralize and strengthen the partnerships [the department] has with its colleagues in State and Local law enforcement and to promote community policing not only through its hiring programs but also through the advancement of strategies for policing innovations and other innovative crime-fighting techniques.”
Because Congress this past weekend approved a two-year federal budget, it will now be up to appropriations committees in each house to recommend specific spending amounts for all government programs. Lawmakers may decide to block the plan to slash the COPS program, although they will be under pressure to make budget cuts governmentwide.
Women’s advocacy groups are expected to oppose another section of the DOJ budget that would also transfer grantmaking from the Office on Violence Against Women to the Office of Justice Programs, but only three jobs in the women’s office would be lost, and the annual grant total would rise slightly, to $486 million.
The Justice Department budget proposal reflects Trump administration priorities of fighting the opioid epidemic, combatting violent crime and drug trafficking gangs and providing tough immigration enforcement.
It seeks more than $109 million for local crime-fighting efforts, including $70 million for a partnership with state and local authorities called Project Safe Neighborhoods that targets gun offenders, the Associated Press reports.
Project Safe Neighborhoods, a partnership with U.S. Attorneys’ offices, “would be dramatically increased … from $6.5 million,” says the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA).
The budget proposal would move the tobacco and alcohol-related responsibilities of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives into the Treasury Department, which officials say would eliminate duplicative work and would allow the agency to focus more closely on fighting street crime.
DOJ is asking for $13.2 million and 25 new positions to help “modernize” and speed up the ATF’s ability to register restricted weapons, such as machine guns and suppressors, after a steady increase in applications.
The antidrug budget includes a proposed $31.2 million for eight new “heroin enforcement groups” to be sent to hard-hit Drug Enforcement Administration offices. Additional agents would target Mexican drug gangs.
The proposal requetsts $39.8 million for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts and is experiencing a backlog of immigration cases. That would include 75 new immigration judges and additional attorneys. The administration wants $25 million for a technological boost for the office, which it says still struggles with a “wholly paper-based system that is both cumbersome and inefficient.”
DOJ also would limit annual expenditures from its Crime Victim Fund to $2.3 billion. The fund was created by Congress in 1984 and is comprised largely of fines paid in federal criminal cases. The fines include huge payments by companies in some major white-collar-crime cases. The fund has amassed more than $12 billion over the years, only a small fraction of which Congress allows to be spent on crime victim aid each year.
The Trump administration is proposing that some of the crime victim fund be used for other purposes, such as projects to reduce violence against women and for grants to fight juvenile crime.
Crime victim advocates may oppose oppose changes in the fund that would divert money intended to aid victims indefinitely to other programs.
Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcomed.
Observations A majority of fragile-community residents (54%) say they would like the police to spend more time in their community, while just 5% say they would like the police to spend less time there. As to moving, three-fourths cite crime as a major reason (51%) or minor reason (25%) for wanting to do so. But […]
The independent Community Oriented Policing Services office, created in 1994 to assist local law enforcement, may be folded inside a DOJ division as part of a White House efficiency drive. In a letter supported by major police groups, 135 Congress members said the move could threaten communities “struggling” to pay for public safety.
President Donald Trump insists that he is a solid supporter of the nation’s police officers, but that backing may not count for much when it comes to the federal agency set up to aid local police departments.
When the White House next Monday proposes its federal spending plan for the year starting Oct. 1, Washington insiders who have talked to officials at the Justice Department anticipate that the plan will include ending the COPS Office’s more than two-decade-long run of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office as an independent agency in the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Instead, COPS would be placed within the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and its grant-making authority would be given to an agency that long has awarded a wide variety of funds to state and local governments, the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
It’s possible that the White House Office of Management and Budget also will seek to end the independence of another DOJ agency, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). Such a move is less likely because the agency was created by law and would require congressional action to change. It also would provoke anger from women’s advocates.
Although the COPS program was created in a major federal anticrime law in 1994 after President Bill Clinton campaigned on a promise to fund 100,000 community police officers nationwide, the separate agency that gives out the funds was not authorized separately by Congress.
In anticipation of a White House move to downgrade the office, 135 members of Congress this week sent a letter to the president declaring that “it is imperative the COPS Office remains an independent agency within the DOJ so that it may continue to support community policing efforts that build trust and mutual respect between law enforcement officers and communities.”
The letter was spearheaded by Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Dave Reichert (R-WA), co-chairs of the House Law Enforcement Caucus, and it includes signers from both parties.
The lawmakers cited the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring (COPS Hiring) Program, which it said “provides struggling communities with necessary funding to address their personnel needs to protect their citizens.” The program says it has helped cities hire 130,000 officers since 1994.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the budget proposal before it is issued next week.
However, DOJ is expected to contend that giving another agency the responsibility for giving out policing grants would help government efficiency by consolidating federal anticrime grants in one agency.
In 2013, the Government Accountability Office reported that “more than 200 [DOJ] grant programs overlapped across 10 key justice areas, and that this overlap contributed to the risk of unnecessarily duplicative grant awards for the same or similar purposes.”
Last June, the Heritage Foundation, whose recommendations the Trump administration has followed on many spending issues, issued a report saying that “Attorney General Jeff Sessions should consolidate COPS grants into the OJP, thus reducing administrative costs.”
The report was written by David Muhlhausen, then a Heritage staff member and now the Trump administration appointee to head the National Institute of Justice, DOJ’s main research agency.
Muhlhausen also wrote for Heritage that the COPS program has “failed at reducing crime,” and added that, “State and local officials, not the federal government, are responsible for funding the staffing levels of local police departments. By paying for the salaries of police officers, COPS funds the routine, day-to-day functions of police and fire departments.”
The new Trump budget is not expected to seek the elimination of the COPS program, but it may propose major budget cuts, as the White House has done for its own Office of National Drug Control Policy, the so-called drug czar. COPS currently has an annual budget of $218 million, and pending Congressional appropriations bills could increase it slightly.
The new congressional letter asks the White House for “robust funding” of the COPS office, which it credits with overseeing implementation of the Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu National Blue Alert Act that establishes a nationwide Blue Alert communications system to help disseminate information on the serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, an officer who is missing in connection with the officer’s official duties, or an imminent and credible threat that someone intends to cause the serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer.
The lawmakers’ letter to Trump was supported by four major organizations, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the National Sheriffs Association, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
FOP involvement could be significant, because the group was a major backer of Trump’s election. Last summer in Nashville, Attorney General Sessions gave the keynote address to the FOP annual convention, where he announced that Trump was reversing an Obama administration order that restricted police agencies’ access to surplus military equipment, including grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields and firearms.
The White House is expected to counter criticism of its handling of the COPS Office by appointing a well known former police official to head it.
Two sources told The Crime Report they had been told that the Justice Department was considering Phil Keith, who served for more than 16 years as police chief of Knoxville, Tn., until 2004, to head the agency. He would succeed Ronald Davis, a former police chief in East Palo Alto, Ca., who ran COPS under President Obama.
DOJ already has significantly reduced the COPS Office’s authority by scaling back a “collaborative reform” program in which police departments could voluntarily work with COPS to review their practices on some controversial issues such as officers’ use of force.
“Changes to this program will fulfill my commitment to respect local control and accountability, while still delivering important tailored resources to local law enforcement to fight violent crime,” Sessions said last September. “This is a course correction to ensure that resources go to agencies that require assistance rather than expensive wide-ranging investigative assessments that go beyond the scope of technical assistance and support.”
Putting the COPS office within the Office of Justice Programs would reduce its independence and visibility because its director would report to an Assistant Attorney General.
As an independent agency, it now reports to the number three official in the entire Justice Department, the Associate Attorney General, giving it much more access to the main Justice Department.
Law enforcement organizations contend that this move would reduce the prominence of the COPS Office that it has enjoyed for 24 years under three presidents. Even though the agency remained intact during the George W. Bush administration, many Republicans have not fully supported it because it was created by a Democratic president.
This includes, perhaps crucially, Mick Mulvaney, the former congressman from South Carolina who now heads Trump’s budget office.
Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.
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