The story in today's paper about the Memphis Police Department possibly preparing to ask for more city funds after receiving "only" $6.3 million in federal stimulus money to hire 37 new officers brings up some larger issues when it comes to the federal government's involvement in local crime fighting. This summer, Vice-President Joe Biden announced that $1 billion had been awarded with the aim of hiring or rehiring nearly 4,699 police officers. The grants were based on criteria relating to fiscal need and community policing plans submitted by departments.
MPD asked for $50 million and 300 officers, a request that turned out to be extremely ambitious, given that the most money any department received was $19.8 million to Oakland, Calif., for 41 officers. Overall, 26 cities got more funds than Memphis, including 23 that got the maximum of 50 new or rehired officers. New York, Houston, Seattle and Pittsburgh received no funds. Also not receiving any funds were any suburban Memphis police departments -- not the Shelby County Sheriff, not Millington, not Germantown, not DeSoto County.
Overall, Tennessee got $21.5 million and 131 new officers, with the most going to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department ($8.7 million for 50 officers). Mississippi got only $5.1 million altogether for 41 new officers, with Arkansas getting $8.7 million for 60 officers.
Using a ranking system that combined fiscal need and a crime and community policing index, the Feds ranked Nashville tops in the state and Memphis No. 6, also behind Humboldt, LaFollette, Ripley and Columbia.
The federal program's Website has a trove of information, including a list of grant recipients by state and its index ranking applicants. It also includes a report on the COPS program (Community Oriented Policing Services), which began in the 1990s in the Clinton administration. According to the report, the peak year for COPS funding was 1998, when $1.6 billion in grants was awarded, and the low point for COPS came in 2006, when only $220 million was awarded. The report also stated that "the focus of COPS grants in recent years shifted from increasing community policing personnel to meeting law enforcement agencies' equipment needs and funding methamphetamine initiatives."
The report recommended more robust monitoring of how COPS funds are used.