The House voted 381-34 today to use a Clinton-era program to put 50,000 more police officers on U.S. streets, despite complaints from some Republicans that the program is still unproven.
The COPS hiring grants program from 1995 to 2005 helped local law enforcement agencies hire 117,000 police officers nationwide; California got $1.2 billion in funding during that decade, putting 15,707 more officers on the street. But the GOP-led Congress in recent years cut the program — which had been funded at more than $1 billion per year in the late ’90s — to $198 million in 2003, and to $10 million in 2005; last year it eliminated the program entirely.
The bill approved today would restart the program and allow the hiring of up to 50,000 new police officers over the next six years nationwide, including as many as 6,700 in California. It’ll go to the Senate now.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was among the bill’s 102 cosponsors and noted on the House floor today that the program since 1994 has provided $45.5 million to hire 552 officers and 45 school-resource officers in her district alone, as well as $2.9 million in technology grants. “If passed, this bill will allow cops to hire more necessary officers,” she said. “The people of Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, the entire 9th Congressional District, could see 236 new officers, $13 million in grants, 19 school resource officers and $2.8 million in technology funding over the next six years. … This is about public safety and violence prevention. Community policing does work.”
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, said police chiefs from his district told him this was a must-have, “and I am proud that today I voted to reinvigorate the hiring grants program, which regrettably has been underfunded over the past few years.”
Said Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez: “Everyone knows that a key ingredient to reducing crime in our neighborhoods is to get more police officers walking the beat, and that’s what our bill would help accomplish. We know from past experience that federal tax dollars can be successfully used to leverage local agencies to hire more police officers and reduce crime. This program was unjustly terminated by past Congresses — leaving communities across the country without critical safety resources. The new majority is committed to restoring this program and providing local law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to keep their neighborhoods safe.”