President Donald Trump was not shy about his admiration for police officers on the 2016 campaign trail — at one point simply stating, “I love the police. They’re the greatest.”
But when it comes to putting that love into policy, Trump may not be as generous. In his 2019 budget plan, the Trump administration proposes a nearly 50 percent cut to the COPS Hiring Program, which helps hire local police officers.
The program was started in 1994 by the Clinton administration and Congress. It was originally planned to be a six-year program that would hire or redeploy 100,000 more police officers, but the policy proved so popular that it’s been extended every year since then.
One can argue about the effectiveness of the program. The research suggests that hiring more police officers has a small effect on violent crime, crediting at least part of the drop in crime nationwide since the 1990s to police departments deploying more officers. Many law enforcement agencies hired more cops independently of the federal hiring program (with local and state funds), but the federal policy likely helped.
But the Trump administration argues that the program was not having a significant effect: “These resources are spread thin and are not well targeted to achieve public safety outcomes. For example, the majority of 2017 awards funded only one to two positions per law enforcement agency.”
In other parts of the budget, the administration plans to boost funding for federal law enforcement, although the Justice Department’s budget is cut overall.
Ultimately, federal law enforcement efforts have a limited effect on crime overall — since most of the criminal justice system is set up at the local and state level. For example, out of the more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, only a dozen or so are federally run. And about 87 percent of America’s prisoners are held at the state level.
But the COPS Hiring Program was a way to support those local and state police forces that make up the majority of American law enforcement agencies. And now the Trump administration, despite Trump’s supposed love for the police, is proposing a big cut to them.