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WHO GETS WHAT: Obama stimulus plan sets aside $4 billion for local cops
By MATT APUZZO , Associated Press
Last update: February 3, 2009 - 2:14 AM
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama wants the government back in the policing business, big time.
Obama's huge stimulus plan includes about $4 billion to resurrect grants that put tens of thousands of police on the streets during the 1990s. The programs were all but eliminated during the Bush administration amid criticism that their results didn't justify the hefty price tags.
The grants are popular with Democrats, and restoring them was central to Obama's campaign plan to combat rising violence. By tacking the money onto the stimulus plan, Obama avoids having to defend the spending during the normal budget process.
The proposal allocates $3 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, a program that has funded drug task forces, after-school programs, prisoner rehabilitation and other programs.
Another $1 billion in stimulus money is set aside for the Community Oriented Policing Services program begun under President Clinton. The program, known as COPS grants, paid the salaries of many local police officers and was a "modest contributor" to the decline in crime in the 1990s, according to a 2005 government oversight report.
President George Bush slashed both grant programs over the past eight years, citing a series of reports questioning their efficiency and oversight.
But the programs remain popular among many lawmakers, who often used the grants to steer money to their home districts. Mayors and police chiefs love them, particularly during lean economic times.
In New Bedford, Mass., a port city of about 92,000, Police Chief Ronald Teachman said a new round of grants would put police on the streets at a time when experts expect crime to rise with the unemployment rate. With the mayor warning of city layoffs, Teachman said grants would keep him from having to move detectives and school resource officers into patrol cars to fill shifts.
And it would mean jobs, he said, which is why the stimulus was written.
"Any dollar they spend in New Bedford is going to be used better than one they spend on Merrill Lynch or others on Wall Street," Teachman said. "I'm not going to hold the money back and not tell you where I'm spending it."
The House passed the stimulus bill, but the version that makes it out of the Senate is expected to be different.
But because Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder strongly support the grants — and Democrats control Congress — the programs will likely be resurrected even if they don't make it into the final stimulus bill.