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Washington Turns on the Money Tap

The economic stimulus package pumps nearly $4 billion into state, local, and tribal law enforcement. But is that a good thing?

April 01, 2009  |  by - Also by this author

Praise and Criticism

Police support organizations and police equipment manufacturers are thrilled with the law enforcement funding contained in the Stimulus. "We pushed for significant Stimulus funding to go to Byrne-JAG and the COPS hiring program, and we are very pleased with the number," says Andy Mournighan, director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Police Organizations.

"Law enforcement has taken a hit for funding in the past eight years, and Byrne-JAG and COPS hiring grants are the two biggest programs that benefit our members. So we are very happy," Mournighan adds.

One group that's not happy about the stimulus funding, in general, and federal funding of local law enforcement in particular is the Heritage Foundation. Senior Policy Analyst David Mulhausen says that while the conservative think tank supports law enforcement, it believes that the federal government should not be funding local law enforcement.

"There's really no net gain," Mulhausen says. "States and cities know that they can lay off officers they think are necessary and then the federal government will make up the difference. They are gaming the system."

Despite all of the layoffs and furloughs in recent months, Mulhausen says states and cities can find the money to keep their officers on the job without federal funds. "If you look at the budgets of cities and states line item by line item, you will find that their money is going to fund operations that are a lot less important than public safety." Asked for examples of such line items that can be cut to shift money to law enforcement, Mulhausen cited parks and Medicaid.

Unlike Mulhausen, those 32 officers laid off after graduating from the Worcester, Mass., academy probably don't care whether the funds come from the Stimulus or from cuts in Medicaid: They just want their badges back.

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