The COPS Hiring Program is yet another way government spends tax dollars to force the spending of more tax dollars.

It adds up, of course, but when government is trillions of dollars in debt, a hundred million here and there seems hardly to count.  That may be part of the reason that news of grants like the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program doesn’t typically question where the money will come from.  The tone is always one of opportunity and community building:

Five Rhode Island communities were awarded funding totaling $750,000.

“We are committed to providing police departments with the resources needed to help ensure community safety and build community trust,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “The grants we are announcing today will enable law enforcement agencies across the country to hire more than 1,000 additional officers to support vitally important community oriented policing programs.”

So, we learn that North Providence, Richmond, Scituate, and Smithfield will each receive $125,000 to hire one officer each, while Tiverton will receive $250,000 for two.  We get a little bit of a sense of what initiatives will be the focus of new hires.  Half of all recipients will work on “building legitimacy and trust” in their communities.  One third will try to address “high rates of gun violence” or “other areas of violence.”  The remainder will turn their attention either to responding to “persons in crisis” or (Warning! Warning!) “combating hate and domestic extremism.”

Conspicuously, the less PR-friendly aspects of the awards are not mentioned.  The Department of Justice will pay up to 75% of the cost for new hires for three years, for a maximum total of $125,000 each.  The town has to pay the rest.  In Tiverton, the cost of an entry-level officer is around $75,000, for a three-year total of roughly $225,000.  That means the cost of these awards to the communities will be something like $100,000 over three years, except for Tiverton, which will have to come up with $200,000 it otherwise wouldn’t have spent.

When the three years are up, the municipalities have to cover at least another year, bringing the cost of the grant closer to $200,000 per officer hired.  However, the likelihood that a town would actually decide to reduce the force because the grant is over is next to zero.  The real cost is therefore an additional employee (plus pension) forever.

Maybe it’s still worth doing, and maybe it’s not, but shouldn’t these details be part of the public discussion?  And should the feds really be using tax dollars lent to us by future generations to manipulate current taxpayers in local governments’ hiring decisions?


Featured image by Bermix Studio on Unsplash.

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