WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Trump administration is continuing to implement the COPS program in the Department of Justice, a provision of the Clinton-era 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (P.L. 103-322), a program that President Clinton promised would provide the federal grants needed to hire and equip 100,000 new police officers.
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in the Department of Justice was established by Attorney General Janet Reno, with plans to implement a six-year, $8.8 billion grant program that would enable state and local law enforcement agencies to hire or redeploy 100,000 additional police officers for community policing efforts. Since its inception, the COPS program has spent over $14 billion, with the 2017 fiscal year budget calling for an increase of $62.5 million to advance President Trump’s community policing initiative.
Empirical evidence to date suggests that the program has resulted in spending billions of dollars in federal taxes on left-leaning “pork barrel” programs that give “community organizing activists” a new opportunity to portray criminals as the victims and police officers as criminals, rather than equipping departments with additional officers as it originally promised to do.
“Social Workers With Guns”
Almost from the program’s inception, social scientists have questioned whether the COPS program was responsible for putting more police officers on the streets, or if the additions in police forces resulted from an increase in population. Nor is there consensus on whether or not decreases in crime can be associated with increases in police forces funded by the COPS program.
What is clear is that the program has not done enough to fulfill the vision on the Left expressed by Robert Trojanowicz, the director of Michigan State University’s National Center for Community Policing, and a professor of criminal justice for 25 years. He defined the concept of community policing as “a new philosophy of policing based on the concept that police officers and private citizens working together in creative ways can help solve contemporary problems related to crime, fear of crime, social and physical disorder, and neighborhood decay.” In other words, “social workers with guns.”
His philosophy required that “police departments develop a new relationship with the law-abiding people in the community, allowing them a greater voice in setting local priorities, and involving them in efforts to improve the overall quality of life in their neighborhoods.” To complete the transformation of law enforcement into social-work activity, Trojanowicz’s perspective required “shifting the focus of police work from handling calls to solving problems.”
Still, left-oriented activists find the COPS program disappointing.
“Indeed four of the cities where the most controversial police killings have occurred since November — Cleveland, Tulsa, Charlestown, S.C., and Baltimore — have benefitted from millions in COPS grants over the years,” noted Kenneth Lipp, a contributor on criminal justice policy, policing, and civil liberties for Al Jazeera America and NextCity.org, in an article published on May 6, 2015.
Lipp also wrote an article that agreed with the Obama DOJ’s “scathing criticism” of the Cleveland Police Department for engaging “in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force” that the DOJ tied to “a failure to embrace and incorporate the concepts of community policing at all levels.” In it he wrote, “Between 2011 and 2013, the police department in Cleveland alone received more than $7 million to put more officers on the street. Unfortunately, one of them happened to be Timothy Loehmann — who shot and killed 12-year old Tamir Rice last November for sitting on a park bench holding a BB gun (it’s worth mentioning here that Ohio is an open-carry state).”
Community Policing — a Leftist “Paradigm-Shift”
Herman Goldstein, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Law, introduced the concept of community policing as a paradigm shift that required traditional law enforcement models to adapt a new concept of forming problem-solving relationships with local communities.
In Goldstein’s view, “community policing” demanded “the involvement of the community in getting the police job done.” This included “the permanent assignment of police officers to a neighborhood in order to cultivate better relationships; the setting of police priorities based on the specific needs and desires of the community; and the meeting of these needs by the allocation of police resources and personnel otherwise assigned to responding to calls for police assistance.” Goldstein insisted “community policing” involved “a different way of thinking about policing” that stressed placing police visibly in communities to reduce fear and deter crime, with police “easily accessible, frequently visible, and caring in their relationships with citizens.”
More subtly, “community policing” involved a shift that began in the 1960s, when social scientists began viewing crime as a result of adverse social and economic conditions. This was famously seen in the analysis of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, more commonly known as the Kerner Commission after its chair, Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. of Illinois, was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots.
The Kerner Commission concluded that the riots were caused by a history of racial discrimination and segregation in which “frustrated hopes” were “the residue of unfulfilled expectations aroused by the great judicial and legislative victories of the Civil Rights Movement and the dramatic struggle for equal rights in the South. A climate that tends toward approval and encouragement of violence as a form of protest has been created by white terrorism directed against nonviolent protest.”
The commission further determined that to some African-Americans, “police have come to symbolize white power, white racism and white repression.” Largely left out of the report were the stories of African-Americans burning and looting neighborhoods in black communities, which in many cases required the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves to stop the violence.
Ultimately, this perspective that viewed criminals as victims of structural social and economic disadvantages began to pervade the “community policing” paradigm.
Ron Boostrom, a professor in the Criminal Justice Administration Program at San Diego State University, wrote in an academic paper published in 2000: “This new paradigm emphasizes prevention of crime through community mobilization and police-citizen partnerships to reinforce informal community social controls and to immunize the community to crime and delinquency. It attempts to reverse community disorganization and decay, thereby immunizing the community to continued delinquency, crime, disorder, and violence.”
Boostrom compared “community policing” to the healthcare movement in that the new paradigm “proposes a new holistic, community-oriented approach to crime prevention and control.”
While the idea of community involvement in police work may sound appealing, the end result is all too often the greater involvement of left-leaning citizens seeking to impose their view that the problem is with police acting as criminals in order to enforce the law.
Under Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, the DOJ used alleged civil rights violations to obtain court-sanctioned “consent decrees.” These were in turn used to intimidate state and local law enforcement to back off the strict enforcement of immigration laws. Similarly, the Obama administration politicized the shooting of Michael Brown by police on August 9, 2014, to admonish police forces around the nation to back off policing crime-ridden minority inner cities, even if doing so placed law-abiding citizens at greater danger of suffering harm.
Community Policing and George Soros’ “War on Cops”
A leaked document from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation made clear Soros was on the community policing bandwagon with intent to build a “national movement” to reform local police forces with federal guidelines that would end up creating a national police force dedicated to achieving socialist “community policing goals.”
“The police killings of African-American men in Ferguson, Staten Island, most recently in North Charleston, Baltimore, and many other American cities highlight that reform of policing policy and practice must be integral to our criminal justice agenda,” noted the Open Society Foundation’s 59-page report prepared for the U.S. Programs Board meeting in New York City on May 7-9, 2015.
“Notably, while such reform activities are inextricably linked with our concerns about racial justice and equality, in particular about advancing opportunity for boys and men of color, they are also critically related to our goal of reducing incarceration, given the role that police practices play in bringing people into the justice system,” the report stated.
What the documents prove is that the goal behind the foundation’s funding of groups like Black Lives Matter was to federalize America’s police forces under the banner of establishing “community policing” that would deal with minority and illegal immigrant criminals, not as law enforcement problems, but as the inevitable consequences of a capitalist society that unleashes police to control and harass minority and illegal victims of social injustice.
In the 2016 election cycle, Soros channeled more than $3 million into seven local district-attorney campaigns over six states. His goal was to make the U.S. justice system consistent with his socialist views dedicated to implementing the principles of community policing on a national scale.
“His money has supported African-American and Hispanic candidates for these powerful local roles, all of whom ran on platforms sharing major goals of Soros’, like reducing racial disparities in sentencing and directing some drug offenders to diversion programs instead of to trial,” wrote Scott Bland in a Politico article published on August 30, 2016.
“It is by far the most tangible action in a progressive push to find, prepare and finance criminal justice reform-oriented candidates for jobs that have been held by longtime incumbents and serve as pipelines to the federal courts — and it has inspired fury among opponents angry about the outside influence in local elections,” the Politico article continued.
In the final analysis, the tip-off that the DOJ’s COPS program was leftist-oriented from the beginning was the inclusion of the word “community” to distinguish “community policing” from the traditional criminal justice concepts of professional police work.
Just as Barack Obama touted his credentials as a “community organizer” when running for president, astute observers of the persistent political agenda are well advised to be aware that the concept of “community policing” was introduced to move traditional criminal justice ideas of policing away from law enforcement and toward the Left’s concept of “social justice,” requiring privileged treatment for criminal activity in communities considered oppressed by traditional majority values and lifestyles.
This article was originally published by the Law Enforcement Charitable Foundation, Inc., and appears here with permission.