While the "economic stimulus" legislation (H.R. 1) developed by
Congress was originally intended to stimulate the economy, the
legislation has now become a political Christmas tree filled with
goodies for special interest groups.
With $550 billion in new spending up for grabs, special interest
groups--including governors, big city mayors, and other local
officials--have lined up for their share of the new funding. For
example, the U.S. Conference of Mayors published a wish list of
over 1,500 pork barrel public safety projects that should be funded
by state and local governments and not the federal government. In
response, the U.S. House of Representatives allocated $3 billion
for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG)
Program and $1 billion for the hiring or rehiring of additional
police officers under the Office of Community Oriented Policing
Services (COPS). Both of these grant programs subsidize the routine
operations of local law enforcement and do not fund law enforcement
activities that are the responsibility of the federal
First, adding Byrne JAG and COPS grant funding to the economic
stimulus package will do little to stimulate the economy, let alone
reduce crime. Instead, these additions will encourage state and
local governments to shirk their responsibility for funding public
safety programs and become more dependent on funding from the
federal government. Furthermore, additional COPS funding is
unlikely to produce a net gain in officer staffing levels, and
Byrne JAG grants do not fund critical drug enforcement
More Byrne JAG and COPS Funding Will
Not Stimulate the Economy.
The activities funded by grant programs such as Byrne JAG and
COPS are not the types of activities that will provide a stimulus
or a "shock" to the economy. Instead, these grants may actually
reduce economic growth. An analysis of the effect of
intergovernmental revenues and combined transportation and public
safety expenditures on economic growth revealed negative effects. This
study found intergovernmental revenues and total expenditures for
transportation and public safety to be negatively associated with
economic growth on the state-level. While establishing legal
institutions to protect property rights and enforce the rule of law
and contracts are vital to supporting economic activity, our nation
has already developed these institutions. Thus, massive increases
in funding for federal law enforcement intergovernmental grant
programs are unlikely to stimulate economic growth and may actually
produce negative results.
More COPS Funding Is Unlikely to
Produce a Net Gain in Officer Staffing Levels
Proponents of additional COPS hiring grants claim that funding
will be used to increase the number of middle-class jobs.
However, this assumed effect is unlikely to occur. COPS hiring
grants will be used to supplant local funding. Audits by the U.S.
Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General found that
cities failed to hire the number of officers required and did not
comply with other grant conditions. In addition to finding COPS
hiring grants had little to no impact on crime rates, a 2006
Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis evaluation of COPS for
58 large cities revealed that these cities substituted COPS grants
for local funding.
Based on past experience, there is no reason to believe that new
COPS funding will not be wasted. First, instead of hiring
additional officers, many cities will use the grants to pay for the
salaries of currently employed officers. Second, other cities will
hire the additional grant-funded officers, but these new officers
will not raise staffing levels due to the attrition of officers
through retirement and transfers. Thus, the COPS hiring grants are
unlikely to result in a net gain in officers.
Byrne JAG Grants Do Not Fund Vital
Drug Enforcement Activities
The major argument for increasing funding for Byrne JAG grants
is that multi-jurisdictional drug task forces operated by state and
local governments will cease to exist without an increase in grant
funding. Last year, special interest groups seeking their share of
federal taxpayer dollars sent a letter to the chairs and ranking
members of the appropriations committees in Congress stating that,
without an infusion of new Byrne JAG grant funding, most
multi-jurisdictional drug task forces "will be forced to close
within the coming months." In addition, the president of the National
Narcotics Officers' Associations Coalition testified in 2006 that
any reduction in funding for Byrne JAG grants "will effectively
cripple multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement at the local and
regional levels." But if these multi-jurisdictional drug task
forces are so important to public safety, then why are state and
local officials unwilling to fund these programs without the
federal government footing the bill? If these task forces are so
vital, then state and local officials would be willing to fund them
without federal subsidies.
The inclusion of Byrne JAG and COPS funding in the economic
stimulus package will be exceedingly unlikely to produce any
stimulus for an economic recovery. Further, Byrne JAG and COPS
grants subsidize the routine activities of local law enforcement.
The activities funded by these grants assign to the federal
government functions that fall within the expertise, jurisdiction,
and constitutional responsibilities of state and local governments.
Additional grant funding would encourage state and local officials
to become even more dependent on federal grant funding by shifting
accountability for local crime away from state and local
governments and toward the federal government.
Combating ordinary crime is the principal responsibility of the
state and local governments. If Congress wants to aid in the fight
against crime, it should limit itself to unique roles that only the
federal government can play. The federal government should not
become a crutch on which local law enforcement becomes
David B. Muhlhausen,
Ph.D., is Senior Policy Analyst in the Center for Data Analysis
at The Heritage Foundation.
Stephen M. Miller and Frank S. Russek, "Fiscal
Structures and Economic Growth at the State and Local Level,"
Public Finance Review, Vol. 25, No. 2 (1997), pp.
a discussion of the Inspector General audits, see David B.
Muhlhausen, "Impact Evaluation of COPS Grants in Large Cities,"
Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis Report No.
CDA06-03, May 26, 2006, pp. 16-18, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Crime/cda06-03.cfm.
Brooks, testimony before Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug
Policy, and Human Resources, Committee on Government Reform, May