The Campaign Spot

Hillary Touts The COPS Program: Why Let Facts Get In The Way?

If I recall correctly from a chat with Mark Tapscott a long while back, the computer-assisted reporting program at the Heritage Foundation was partially inspired by questions of whether the Clinton-era COPS program was as effective as its backers said. They ran the numbers, trying to scientifically determine if there was any correlation between where COPS grants went, and reductions in crime.

While we’d all like to see an effective anti-crime program, the study found no correlation between the grants and crime reduction. In some places that received grants, crime went down, other places it didn’t; in some places crime went down where there were no COPS grants distributed.
USA Today noticed:

Ten years later, the grant program known as COPS (for Community Oriented Policing Services) has given $10 billion to help more than 12,000 police agencies hire and reassign officers. Politicians and police chiefs across the nation have said that COPS is a big reason for the sharp decline in crime rates that began in the late 1990s.
But now, with the largest buildup of local law enforcement in U.S. history winding down, a less flattering view of the COPS program is emerging: Federal audits of just 3% of all COPS grants have alleged that $277 million was misspent. Tens of thousands of jobs funded by the grants were never filled, or weren’t filled for long, auditors found. And there’s little evidence that COPS was a big factor in reducing crime.
The audits, conducted by the Justice Department’s inspector general and reviewed by USA TODAY, allege that some police agencies wrongly used the hiring grants to cover routine expenses at a time when local budgets were tightening.

But, in an example of how today’s political rhetoric is impervious to facts, the COPS program is still touted as a proven crime-reducer from… well, guess who.

In a major speech to the National League of Cities today, Hillary Clinton called for putting more police officers on America’s streets by restoring funding to the nation’s community policing program after a report last week showed violent crime rising over the last two years.
“As funding for the COPS program has gone down, crime has gone up,” Clinton said. “By boosting funding for community policing we can put more cops on the beat and make our communities safer.” 
A report released by the Police Executive Forum last week found that homicides increased 10 percent and robberies 12 percent from 2004 to 2006. According to FBI data, aggravated assaults with guns rose 10 percent. 
With crime rising in cities across America, Clinton said she would more than double funding for Community Oriented Policing Systems (COPS) to Clinton administration levels of more than $1 billion. President Bush’s proposed budget slashes COPS funding by 94%, from $541 million in 2007 to $34 million in 2008, and provides no money to hire new police officers. 
Since it was created, the COPS program has funded nearly 118,000 officers in more than 13,000 communities. Between 1994 and 2001, due in part to the COPS grants, violent crime declined by 26 percent and the murder rate fell by 34 percent. An October 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded that for every dollar spent on COPS hiring per resident, crime fell by almost 30 incidents per 100,000 residents.

No, no, no, no, no.She even gets the number of cops wrong.

Research by The Heritage Foundation, U.S. Department of Justice, and the General Accounting Office have all found that COPS failed to come close the 100,000 additional officer goal. Despite funding of $8 billion between fiscal years 1994 to 2000, a 2000 report titled National Evaluation of the COPS Program, by the DOJ, estimates that the number of officers that COPS placed on the streets would, at most, peak at around 57,000 by 2001.

And while I would love to applaud an effective federal anti-crime initiative, we shouldn’t pretend that a connection is there because it’s politically convenient. It just isn’t there:

In response to possible concerns that a simultaneous relationship between violent crime and police expenditures does not exist, Heritage analysts re-estimated the models without lagging the expenditure variables. Due to space limitations, the results in tabular form are not presented. For all three models, none of the COPS grants, including the miscellaneous grants, had a statistically significant relationship with violent crime rates.

This is why policy debates with the Clintons are so infuriating. Instead of acknowledging, “this program has not worked as well as advertised, and we’re open to looking to new ways to fix it,” the Clinton machine just ignores data, research, and facts it finds inconvenient.

What matters to them is not whether the program but works, but that the perception is created that it works and that they get credit for it.

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