H.R. 1139: COPS Improvements Act of 2009

H.R. 1139

COPS Improvements Act of 2009

Date
April 22, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

H.R. 1139 is being considered under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) on February 23, 2009.

Bill Summary

The bill increases the authorization for the program by 72 percent, to $1.8 billion annually from 2009 through 2014 for the COPS programs.

The bill expands the Attorney General's authority to make grants and carry out public safety and community policing programs and gives the Attorney General the authority to determine whether state or local agencies have supplanted federal funds through the COPS program to replace funds that would have otherwise been spent from local resources.

The bill gives the COPS program exclusive authority to administer COPS grants. Currently at the Department of Justice (DOJ), both the COPS program office and the office of Justice Programs (OJP) share management responsibility for some COPS funds and the administration of COPS programs.

H.R. 1139 establishes a grant program to train police officers in anti-terrorism, intelligence, and homeland security duties and another to hire school resource officers to combat crime, gang, and drug activities in and around schools. The bill also establishes grants to "implement innovative programs" to combat drug use, distribution, and manufacturing, and to establish criminal gang enforcement task forces.

The bill creates a "Troops to COPS" program, which awards grants to hire former members of the Armed Services as career law enforcement officers, giving special consideration to communities that are adversely affected by a recent military base closing. The bill creates a "Community Prosecutors Program" to provide funds for the Attorney General to assign prosecutors to handle cases from specific geographic areas and problems in the areas of counter-terrorism and violent crime.

H.R. 1139 establishes a "Technology Grants Program," which provides funds to develop and use new technologies and to assist law enforcement in shifting "from reacting to crime to preventing crime." The bill requires that grants made under the COPS programs are divided in the following separate accounts:

  • Community Policing and Crime Prevention;
  • Troops to Cops Program;
  • Community Prosecutors Program; and,
  • Technology Grants.

The bill eliminates the requirement that the federal share of hiring grants decrease during the course of the grant and eliminates the preferential treatment for grant recipients who agree to contribute more than the minimum 25 percent of hiring grants.

H.R. 1139 requires that officers hired with COPS grants must be retained for at least one year after the grant money expires and allows grants to be renewed indefinitely to provide additional funds, except that grants for hiring and rehiring career law enforcement officers may be renewed up to 5 years. The bill also eliminates the $75,000 cap for hiring officers. The bill increases the amount of the grant funding that recipients may use for "technical assistance" from 3 percent to 5 percent.

The bill requires the Attorney General to study the effectiveness of the COPS programs in reducing crime that shall report to Congress within four years of enactment of this legislation. The bill also requires the Inspector General to conduct a study, using random sampling techniques, on the effectiveness of the "COPS on the Beat" program in reducing rates of violent crime, drug offenses, and other crimes. The study must also report on the level to which State and local law enforcement are contributing funds to the program, and on any waste, fraud, or abuse. The Inspector General shall report their findings to Congress within 180 days of enactment of this legislation.

 

Background

The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program was established within the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322).  The mission of the COPS program is "to advance the practice of community policing as an effective strategy in communities' efforts to improve public safety."  The COPS program provides grants to tribal, State, and local law enforcement agencies for a broad range of programs including: acquiring new technologies, developing and testing new policing strategies, and hiring and training law enforcement professionals.  According to the COPS Office, it has awarded more than $11.4 billion to over 13,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States since it started awarding grants in 1994.

The 1994 COPS program authorization expired in 2000, but Congress continued to appropriate funding for it until it was reauthorized in 2005, in the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109 -162).  The 2005 COPS reauthorization consolidated the multiple COPS grant programs into a single grant program, allowing states and localities to apply to just one grant program and use the funds for both hiring officers and to fund non-hiring programs.

H.R. 1139, if enacted, will change COPS from a single-grant program back to a multi-grant program.  H.R. 1139 will also expand the scope of the COPS programs by expanding the program purpose areas by adding: school resource officers, illegal drug programs, and hiring officers to perform homeland security duties.  The bill will also create new grant programs to include the Troops-to-Cops Program, the Community Prosecutors Program, and the Technology Grants program.

For more information on the COPS program, see these resources:

Cost

According to CBO, H.R. 1139 would cost $5.3 billion over the 2010-2014 period, and an additional $3.6 billion after 2014.