Community Policing:

Observations on the COPS Program Midway Through Program Implementation

T-GGD-00-33: Published: Oct 28, 1999. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the implementation of the Community Policing Act, focusing on statutory requirements for implementing the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants.

GAO noted that: (1) the Public Safety Partnership and Community Policing Act authorizes $8.8 billion to be used from fiscal years (FY) 1995 to 2000 to enhance public safety; (2) it has the goals of adding 100,000 officer positions, funded by grants, to the streets of communities nationwide and promoting community policing; (3) among other things, the act required that half the grants go to law enforcement agencies serving populations of 150,000 or less; (4) the Attorney General created the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to administer community policing grants; (5) at the end of FY 1997, GAO reported on the Department of Justice's implementation of the act and progress toward achieving program goals; (6) GAO found that grants were not targeted to law enforcement agencies on the basis of which agency had the greatest need for assistance, but rather to agencies that met COPS program criteria; (7) previous work had shown that overall, the higher crime rate, the more likely a jurisdiction was to apply for a COPS grant; (8) the primary reasons contacted jurisdictions chose not to apply for a grant were cost related; (9) GAO reported that the COPS Office provided limited monitoring to assure compliance with the act during the period reviewed; (10) COPS officials said they were taking steps to increase the level of monitoring; (11) the majority of the 13,396 grants awarded in FY 1995 and FY 1996 went to law enforcement agencies serving populations of fewer than 50,000; (12) communities with populations of over 1 million were awarded less than 1 percent of the grants, although they were awarded over 23 percent of the total grant dollars; and (13) as of June 1997, the COPS Office estimated that a total of 30,155 law enforcement officer positions funded by COPS grants were on the streets.

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