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Friday, June 7, 2013

Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): Current Legislative Issues

Nathan James
Analyst in Crime Policy

The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program was created by Title I of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322). The mission of the COPS program is to advance community policing in all jurisdictions across the United States. The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-162) reauthorized the COPS program through FY2009 and changed the COPS program from a multigrant program to a single-grant program.

The COPS program awards grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States so they can hire and train law enforcement officers to participate in community policing, purchase and deploy new crime-fighting technologies, and develop and test new and innovative policing strategies. Authorized appropriations for the COPS program expired in FY2009. As such, Congress could consider legislation to reauthorize the COPS program. Debate about reauthorization of the program could be contentious because the COPS program is one of the primary means for providing federal assistance to state and local law enforcement, but at the same time, Congress is considering ways to reduce discretionary spending in order to shrink the federal budget deficit. This report provides an overview of issues Congress may consider if it chooses to take up legislation to reauthorize the COPS program.

If Congress considers the future of the COPS program, there are several issues it might discuss, including the following:

  • Given current trends in violent crime and research findings on the ability of additional law enforcement officers and COPS grants to reduce crime, should Congress consider changing the focus of the COPS program away from providing grants to hire additional officers and toward providing grants to support law enforcement’s operations? 
  • Did the COPS Office meet its goal of placing 100,000 new officers on the street? What does this mean for oversight of the program? 
  • Are hiring grants a cost-effective way of combating crime? 
  • Should Congress eliminate or modify the requirement that half of the total appropriation for hiring grants be awarded to small law enforcement agencies and the other half be awarded to large law enforcement agencies? Also, should Congress eliminate or modify the requirement that each state receive at least 0.5% of the total appropriation for hiring grants? 
  • Is there programmatic overlap between the COPS Office of Justice Programs (OJP) grant programs? 
  • Should funding for the COPS program be appropriated as currently authorized in statute?

Date of Report: May 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: R40709
Price: $29.95

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