COPS and LLEBG Funding in Jeopardy
By Ed Somers
September 8, 2003
Funding for both the COPS program and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG) is in serious jeopardy this year. The House approved a FY 2004 funding bill for the Department of Justice on July 23 that would eliminate all hiring funding for the COPS program. Also, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill on September 4 that would slash the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (see letter on priorities).
The COPS program, once funded as $1.63 billion annually, now faces the serious possibility of being reduced to as little as $253 million. In addition, while over the history of the program as much as 80-90 percent of the funding was available for hiring programs, it is now possible that hiring grants could be completely eliminated.
The House-approved FY 2004 appropriations bill for the Department of Justice continues the downward trend in funding for the COPS program by providing just $253 million. This is down from $738 million in FY 2002, and $572 million in FY 2003. Of this total, no funding would be provided for the Universal Hiring Program (UHP), the COPS MORE program, police overtime, or the school resources officers program. These programs received a total of $200 million in FY 2003. There is also no funding for interoperability grants.
Under the Senate committee bill, approximately $500 million would be provided for COPS, including level funding of $200 million for hiring programs. However, this funding is only for school resource officers, with nothing being provided for UHP, MORE or overtime. $140 million would be provided for interoperability grants.
The Senate bill would slash the LLEBG from $400 million in FY 2003 to $150 million in FY 2004. $80 million of this total would be earmarked for Boys and Girls Clubs (relatively standard amount).
The House bill includes $400 million for LLEBG, with same $80 million earmark. LLEBG has historically been much more popular in the House than the Senate.
Law Enforcement Funding Moving to Homeland Security, the States?
When the Administration released its FY 2004 budget proposal, it stated its desire to reduce funding for traditional law enforcement programs like COPS and LLEBG (which flow directly to cities and counties), in favor of funding for homeland security (which flows through the states).
The Department of Justice budget document said, "as DOJ reprioritizes to focus on counterterrorism, state and local law enforcement agencies will bear a larger responsibility in the fight against crime," calling for the COPS program to be cut to $164 million with no hiring grants, and for the LLEBG to be merged with the state Byrne grant program and cut by more than 40 percent.
At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security budget said that of the $3.5 billion for first responder assistance proposed through the states, $500 million would be for state and local law enforcement anti-terrorism activities.
Both House and Senate Appropriations Committee action so far this year show that this shift of funding to the states could become reality. In addition to the proposed COPS and LLEBG cuts mentioned above, both the House-passed and Senate-passed funding bills for the Department of Homeland Security contain $500 million for new "state and local law enforcement terrorism prevention grants." This funding would be provided through the states, with the states keeping 20 percent and then choosing how to allocate the remaining funding to cities and counties. Also, it is not clear if any of this funding will be available for hiring or overtime in the final bill.