Clinton Decries Cut in COPS Program, Vetoes Spending Bill
President Clinton vetoed the Commerce-Justice-State-Judiciary FY 2000 appropriations bill (HR 2670) on October 25 due to the almost one billion dollar cut in the COPS program from his requested funding level.
The bill would provide only $325 million in new spending for the COPS program. The program received $1.43 billion in FY 1999 and the President’s budget had requested $1.275 billion.
In commenting on the veto, President Clinton said, “we have the lowest crime rate in years, but we cannot stop until America is the safest big country in the world.”
The authorized funding level for the program for FY 2000 under the expiring 1994 crime act is $268 million, but the Administration has proposed a reauthorization of the program to fund an additional 30,000 to 50,000 officers as well as new technology. Neither the House nor Senate have acted to pass a new crime bill.
Reauthorization of the COPS program is strongly supported by The U.S. Conference of Mayors. Conference President Mayor Wellington E. Webb of Denver wrote to Congress on October 26 that, “While crime rates have dropped in many communities, it is the strong belief of the nation’s mayors that now is not the time to take a step backwards on our vigilant efforts to provide safe communities for all our citizens. Crime rates are still too high, and problems such as youth and school violence continue to be of major concern.”
In addition to providing the $325 million, the appropriations bill would recapture and reprogram existing funding in the amount of $250 million for COPS activities, for a total of $575 million. From these funds, the bill directs that $180 million be spent on school resource officers, $132 million on the Universal Hiring Program, $40 million in Indian Country initiatives, and $206 million on non-hiring initiatives including technology, methamphetamine and bullet proof vest grants. Most of the technology and methamphetamine funding is earmarked for specific projects.
The bill would provide an additional $130 million for a Crime Identification Technology Program which would not be run through COPS office.
By comparison, the Administration’s budget request and reauthorization proposal for the COPS program calls for $1.275 billion in new funding for FY 2000, of which $600 million would be used for new officers, $350 million for technology, $200 million for community prosecutors and neighborhood DA’s, and $125 million for community-wide prevention initiatives.
Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Cut Reversed
The conference version of HR 2670 contains $523 million for the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG) with no formula changes. This is the same amount which has been provided over the past several years for the LLEBG. However, $50 million is earmarked for the Boys and Girls Clubs, and $20 million is provided to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to help local governments identify, select, develop, modernize and purchase new technologies for use by law enforcement.
The final appropriation level for the LLEBG is a major victory in that the Senate had proposed to cut the program to $400 million. However, this funding level will not be final until Congress and the White House agree on the entire appropriations bill.