By adopting an amendment from Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., the House narrowly rescued the COPS program from being slashed. COPS was Bill Clinton's way of picking up some "law and order" credibility in 1993, with its promise to put 100,000 additional cops on the street. It was a political bill for three-year grants that has since taken on a life of its own.
Since its adoption, the COPS program's effects on crime have been mixed at best. But more importantly, it became an excuse for many local police departments simply to substitute the feds' money for their own -- a process known as "supplanting." Some of the cities in the program actually cut the size of their police forces (usually through attrition) even as they took federal money to hire more officers. A Heritage paper analyzed the results of a federal audit of several cities in the program:
Dallas, Louisville, and Newark actually reduced their force sizes after receiving grants to hire additional officers. For example, instead of hiring 249 new officers, Newark reduced its police force by 142 officers from fiscal years 1996 to 1997...[S]ix police departments supplanted by failing to hire the required number of additional officers...Atlanta supplanted over $5.1 million in hiring grants. After receiving grants to hire 231 additional police officers, El Paso failed to hire the additional number of officers required by the grant. Sacramento used over $3.9 million in hiring grants to retain officers previously funded through earlier grants.
And right here in Washington D.C.:
[T]he police department was awarded almost $11 million....to hire 56 civilians and redeploy 521.4 officers through technology purchases. However, when the Office of Inspector General asked for a list of officers redeployed, the list included only 53 officers—one officer was deceased, 10 officers were retired, and 13 no longer worked for the police department.
There are serious grounds for questioning the wisdom of having the feds subsidize local governments this way, and you would think that the Tea Party Congress would be very likely to reject the program, which year after year has refused to die. Yet Congress chose again to fund it yesterday, in a close vote with liberals and conservatives on both sides. The Weiner amendment passed with votes from such conservative stalwarts as Marsha Blackburn, Patrick McHenry, and Sue Myrick, as well as many of the new freshman Tea Partiers, some of whom are former mayors.
This, along with the opposite results from the cut to the F-35 engine, tell us the lay of the land on Capitol Hill. Things have changed in Congress, but only so much.