Police Math


Among Bill Clinton's campaign promises in 1992 was to put 100,000 new cops on America's streets by the end of the decade. Seven years later, this plan, like many administration initiatives, rests in tatters even as the president declares it a success.

A Department of Justice audit of the Community Oriented Policing Service program (COPS) reveals that far fewer new police officers will be hired than expected. According to the report, only 59,765 officers funded by COPS will actually be on patrol by next year. Amazingly, program officials don't even pretend that they will meet their target: They only plan on processing applications for 100,000 new cops by next year. Concluded the DOJ's auditor, "This is significantly different from having 100,000 new officers…actually deployed to the streets."

Even the 59,765 number is an overstatement. The report noted numerous irregularities in COPS estimates. For instance, officials included 7,722 positions in their total even though local police departments had turned down the funding for them. And 2,526 additional positions were counted even though the grantees have not yet received formal notification.

The audit further revealed that COPS couldn't verify that the new officers were assigned to patrol duties or ensure that local police departments would retain them beyond an initial three-year grant period, the two major concerns of the program's critics. In fact, 75 percent of cities sampled by the audit could not demonstrate that they had pulled officers off desk duty and redeployed them to the street, another goal of the program. What's more, most cities have never drafted plans for paying their COPS hires once federal funding expires. Worse still, the report revealed that 60 municipalities, including Atlanta, used the grants to pay for current staff instead of new hires.