Beat COPS II...
By William Westmiller
The President's State of the Union Address Tuesday will find a very skittish audience as Senators take an evening off from their trial to applaud the subject of their deliberations. In spite of themselves, they'll be listening for truths, partial truths and blatant falsehoods. They're certain to get plenty of misrepresentation on at least one issue: community policing.
Six years ago, Clinton used the Address to promote his COPS program: spending almost nine billion dollars to put 100,000 local police officers back "on the beat". Tuesday evening he will announce that the program has been an astounding, almost unbelievable, success. Almost.
First, the Chief Executive will announce that 92,000 new police have been put on the street. Which might be a good thing, if it were true. In fact, the number is a cumulative total over five years, reflecting the number of individuals who were compensated in each of those years. In other words, roughly 18,000 people were paid in each of five years. But, not police officers on the street. The total includes community-liaison staff, sensitivity trainers, administrative services personnel and the desk officers who replaced those that were put out on the street. The 1.3 billion dollars a year paid only a small part of the police salaries, but it paid all the salaries of thousands of administrators and federal handlers, whose sole job was to promote the grants to local governments.
Here's a little math. Assume all the money was spent on the salaries of 100,000 new community-based police. What's their average annual income? Answer: Thirteen thousand dollars. Right.
Second, the President will claim that the COPS program is primarily responsible for the lowest crime rate in thirty years. Of course he'll also mention the Brady Bill and Assault Weapons Ban, which were effectively and thankfully gutted by the courts. But he won't mention state laws that applied truth In sentencing or three strikes or parole reform or the construction of new state prisons. Nor would he ever consider mentioning that the largest reductions in crime occurred in those counties that liberalized their licensing of concealed weapons to allow more law abiding citizens to carry guns. At best, the President's claim for the COPS program might be one-sixth true. Good thing the State of the Union Address isn't given under oath.
Third, the renewed COPS II program will continue to authorize 1.3 billion dollars for each of the next five years. Unlike the previous program, the proposal by Senate Democrats includes a new component called "Troops to Cops". Rather than paying local governments to hire and train civilian police officers, the federal government will recruit new community policemen directly out of the military. It would put up to 30,000 soldiers on the streets to help keep kids out of trouble. The new project might save money on uniforms and weapons if it simply re-assigned military personnel to new domestic posts at each street corner. Well, it might do that, if it weren't totally banned by the Constitution. Well, it might do that anyway.
There's a not-so-subtle irony in watching a President who is on trial for his own violations of the law lecture Senators on how to enforce the rule of law. Much more troubling is the complicity of those same legislators in a continuing process of federalizing every law in the land. The development and enforcement of criminal and civil laws was once an entirely local power, constrained only by the federal Constitution's Bill of Rights. But, every year for the past decade a new assortment of state and local laws are written into federal code, coming under the province of federal prosecutors and federal courts. If federal legislators have the wisdom to repeal and rewrite the laws of all fifty states, it won't be long before it needs a federal policy force to enforce the laws that are beyond the capacity and skill of local police forces. Even if it's not in the State of the Union, that prospect is definitely on the agenda of this Administration's Justice Department. The COPS program is just one small step in that direction.
Being tough on crime is a good political issue. Who can criticize new laws against drug dealing, money laundering, campaign finance, guns near schools, politically incorrect speech and other such heinous crimes against the state? Who can object to more funding for those friendly local policemen, or that federal soldier in a strange state with allegiance pledged to remote Washington bureaucrats? It may be the Clinton-Gore legacy that they aspired to be the "controlling legal authority" for their own conduct. They've already been granted the power to be the controlling legal authority for everyone else.
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©1999, William Westmiller
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24CA) Congress
Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party
beatcops.c26 ~785 Words
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