Law enforcement was among the winners in the massive economic stimulus bill passed last week by Congress and signed this week by President Obama. The package includes nearly $3.8 billion for state and local law enforcement, much of it destined for enforcing the country's draconian drug laws.
The Byrne JAG program has been criticized by fiscal conservatives and progressive reformers alike as ineffective and a waste of money. The Bush administration tried repeatedly to zero out funding for the program, but it was always reinstated -- albeit sometimes at lower levels -- by the Congress.
The second largest chunk of police spending in the bill, $1 billion, is for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. It will pay to put thousands more police officers on the street.
The bill also includes $225 million in state and local law enforcement grants "to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system" and another $225 million for law enforcement assistance to Indian tribes. There is another $40 million in grants "to provide assistance and equipment" to police agencies along the Mexican border, with $10 million of that allocated for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for its Project Gunrunner aimed at reducing gun smuggling into Mexico. Another $125 million is destined for rural states and rural areas to prevent and combat crime, "especially drug-related crime."
Cops and elected officials are already salivating and have created huge wish lists. The public safety wish list from the US Conference of Mayors totaled $5.5 billion and includes items such as $1.6 million for SWAT equipment, $56,000 for military grade rifles, $625,000 for unmanned aerial surveillance drones, and $130,000 for "covert operations" in Arlington, Texas; $600,000 for a "live fire" SWAT team practice house and $420,000 for a SWAT armored vehicle in Sparks, Nevada; $3.5 million for "Air Tactical Unit Support and Equipment" (read: cool new helicopter) for Hampton, Virginia; and $60,000 for five "tactical entry rifles" and other equipment in Ottawa, Iowa. (See more wish list examples at Radley Balko's The Agitator.)