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COPS, Police Block Grants Reduced in Final Budget Agreement

By Laura DeKoven Waxman
November 21, 2011

COPS hiring grants will be funded at $166 million in FY 2012 according to the conference agreement released late November 14 as part of the “minibus” appropriations bill, which combined the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills. The amount provided for hiring grants is one-third less than is available this year and 72 percent less than the President requested, but in many ways can be considered a victory since the House appropriations bill would have totally eliminated the program and the entire COPS Office at the Justice Department. The COPS program is a top Conference of Mayors priority, and the organization worked hard to see funding included this year.

The conference agreement includes a total of $199 million for COPS Office programs, with the other funds going primarily to tribal hiring and community policing development. The other key program that provides law enforcement funding to cities, Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, is funded at $352 million this year, 17 percent less than was available last year, and 28 percent less than the President requested. Second Chance reentry programs, another Conference of Mayors priority, are funded at $63 million, 24 percent less than is available this year and 37 percent below the amount requested by the President. As with hiring grants, this may be viewed as a victory of sorts since the Senate had proposed to zero out the program.

The conference agreement provides a total of $27.4 billion for the Justice Department, $19 million more than last year, but $1.3 billion (five percent) less than the President requested. Total funding for state and local law enforcement programs is $2.2 billion, $570 million (20 percent) less than last year and $856 million (28 percent) less than the President requested. The table shown depicts funding levels for key state and local programs in millions of dollars.

Firearms Provisions

The conference agreement includes numerous provisions related to firearms. Three of these have previously been in annual appropriations bills and now are made permanent. They prohibit the Justice Department from consolidating firearms sales records, electronically retrieving the records of former firearms dealers, and disclosing information about persons who have passed firearms background checks.

The agreement also contains numerous one-year firearms protections and new language prohibiting the Justice Department from requiring imported shotguns to meet a “sporting purposes” test. It bars the use of funds to transfer the functions of the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) to other agencies and to promulgate or implement any rule requiring a physical inventory of any licensed firearms business. Finally, it directs ATF to report to the Appropriations committees on the total number of firearms recovered by the government of Mexico, including those for which an ATF trace is attempted and those determined to be manufactured in the United States.