THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
BRIEFING BY ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN SCHMIDT AND DIRECTOR OF COPS PROGRAM, CHIEF JOE BRANN
The Briefing Room
12:36 P.M. EST
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHMIDT: Good afternoon. I think you all know that the President and the Attorney General have just announced grants to about 6,600 communities around this country to enable them to hire over 7,100 new police officers. This brings us to a total of close to 17,000 additional police officers for which funding has now been awarded under the 1994 crime law. That is a substantial step, although we still have a long way to go, toward the 100,000 additional police officers that we are committed to hire under that bill.
We have reached this stage of the process only a little less than five months from the signing into law of this bill in September, and I think that is a fairly amazing result. It is a tribute to a lot of hard work by Chief Brann and others in our COPS Program office. But it is also primarily a result of the really incredible level of demand around the country for what this program is offering, and that is funding to enable communities to hire additional police officers.
We saw that demand initially a year ago when the Justice Department went forward with what was called the Police Hiring Supplement Program. That was a $150-million program that was able to make grants to about 250 communities around the country on the same terms as are now being offered. At that point over 10 times that number of communities, about 2,700, applied. So we began to get some sense of the level of demand for this type of funding.
When the Crime Bill was enacted we went forward, as we were authorized to do, made an initial round of $200 million in grants to the failed applicants under the prior Police Hiring Supplement Program. We then went forward in October, and put together two initial programs: one of them called Cops Ahead was for jurisdictions of 50,000 and over; and the other, called Cops Fast, which is the program under which announcements have been made today, was for jurisdictions of 50,000 or less. The reason for that distinction was in the statute, which allowed us to set up a special, expedited, simplified application process for the smaller jurisdictions.
We announced both of those programs back in October. Under Cops Ahead, there was a November 30th deadline date, and we committed to make announcements in the middle of December, which we did. We set that up initially as a $225-million program, with a maximum of three percent of each jurisdiction's police force. We ended up increasing it by $100 million, to $325 million. And even then, we had to cut back and limit jurisdictions to 2.5 percent of their police forces. But on that basis, we went forward in December and announced grants for close to 5,000 additional officers.
At the same time, in October, we announced the Cops Fast program, which had a deadline date of December 31st. We tried to make this program as simple, as non-bureaucratic as we possibly could because we're trying to reach smaller towns and villages around this country. We told all of these communities that if they applied by December 31st, we would try to make decisions and would make announcements by about February 1st. And we are a week or so late, but I think that we are doing a good job of trying to keep to our schedule and to meet the deadlines that we've set for ourselves.
The demand for the Cops Fast program is even more remarkable than the demand that we saw in the case of Cops Ahead. And I think to give you some of the specifics on Cops Fast, I will turn it over to Chief Brann, who is now the Director of our COPS Program.
Q Can we ask you a question?
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHMIDT: Sure.
Q Are these funds endangered in any way by this movement on the Hill to repeal the legislation, the Crime Bill?
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHMIDT: The actual funding that we announced today is not endangered because these awards are made out of this year's appropriation. But down the road, our ability to get to the 39,000 that communities have already requested and then go beyond that and get to the 100,000 is totally endangered, because what is proposed in bills that are now before the House of Representatives if to divert this funding away from a COPS Program --
Q Well, what are you going to do about it?
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHMIDT: Well, what we're going to do is convince people that this is a program that makes sense; it's working; it's putting additional cops into communities all over this country. There is a tremendous demand for the funding to do that. And it makes no sense at all to take a program that is working, that is putting additional cops into communities around this country and divert that into something where the money would be spent for anything that a locality determines to be in the interest of public safety or crime prevention. As a practical matter, there will be nothing to show at the end of the six-year period if that money is not directed toward a specific and tangible and concrete goal.
So I think what we're going to do about it do what we're doing today -- show that this program works, explain why it works, I hope enlist the support of a lot of people, including people who are here at the announcement today in the law enforcement community who believe in this program, and, the President said, worked very hard to maintain bipartisan support for a program that's working.
Q One follow-up. Just who is against this?
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHMIDT: You know, that's an interesting question. Nobody, as far as I know, is against the COPS Program on the merits. I have not heard anyone say that this program isn't working better than anyone who passed it and worked for it expected when it passed. If you had said back in September that in February we would have reached 16,000 or 17,000 additional officers being put into communities, I think people would have been surprised. No one, to my knowledge, has criticized the operation of this program.
The only questions -- the answer is, on the merits, I don't think anyone is making a case or even trying to make a case that it is not a good thing to be working effectively to put 100,000 new cops into communities around this country.
MS. TERZANO: Let's have Mr. Brann speak and then we'll take questions.
Q So what is the problem?
CHIEF BRANN: Good afternoon. First of all, let me give you a brief introduction about myself. Again, the name is Joe Brann; I'm the director the COPS office. My background is 26 years in local law enforcement, five years of which was served as a police chief in the city of Hayward, California. Prior to that, the first 21 years of my career was spent with Santa Ana, California.
I think it's very important for us, when we're talking about these grants -- Cops Fast, Cops Ahead, Cops Phase One -- the various rounds of funding that we have already gone through, to acknowledge that this is more than a matter of hiring 100,000 cops -- we're going to do that. I think if there was any doubt in anybody's mind, it should have been laid to rest today with the announcement that we made. There were critics who said that they did not believe that we would fund more than 20,000 police officers with these monies under the Crime Bill, and I expect that we will meet that in our first full year.
It's also important to acknowledge what we're trying to do -- it's to get those officers out there engaged in policing at the street level in cities, towns, communities across this country. In so doing, their efforts are going to be directed at community policing. And that's very critical in all of this. Community policing is not a buzzword, it's not a fad, it's not a gimmick. It's something that is very strong and directly deals with crime in this country and the kinds of demands that are placed upon police organizations and the kinds of expectations that stem from the public's needs.
Community policing is all about a philosophy -- not a program, but a philosophy -- of policing in which police agencies, their personnel, work very closely in strong partnership with community members, with community organizations, with other arms, other elements of local government, to address crime problems and social disorder in communities. It has a lot to do with being more effective.
I think for many years we have been highly efficient in police work, probably best represented by the use of the 911 systems -- "call a cop, get a cop" is what I like to refer to it as. We are very efficient in getting there. The question for us for many years has been how effective are we being, and that's what community policing is all about -- it's increased effectiveness, it's increased responsiveness. Bringing that back to this office, that's what we're trying to encourage; an efficient, an effective policing strategy at the local level. For us to do that, we also have to be efficient and effective. And I think if you paid heed to the comments today from the President, the Vice President and the Attorney General, what you saw in the way of these Cops Fast announcements is a strong indication of our commitment to do just that.
If I could, I'm going to turn to this Cops Fast application form. We have, in fact, reinvented the whole notion of the grant making process in the federal system. We've changed this considerably. What we're doing is getting away from some of the bureaucracy and some of the red tape that has long been in the way for local police agencies.
I can tell you that there's nothing more frustrating as a police chief or as a cop when you're trying to seek federal funding, there's nothing more frustrating than to go through the time consuming processes, the immense bureaucracy, the layers of bureaucracy that you have to go through to even get your application submitted in the first place, much less to hear months or years after the fact, that once you've submitted that, that you're not going to get funded. And we decided, that up front, we're going to make this very simple and straightforward for the law enforcement organizations across the country.
This Cops Fast announcement, it's a one page announcement -- one page application form. What we're trying to do is make that simple, work with the local agencies, ensure that they are notified in a timely way whether or not they're going to get the funding. And what you saw today is a strong indication of that, because we're funding about 6,600 agencies across the country with better than 7,100 officers being provided just under this phase. Thus far, we've funded about 17,000 -- just under 17,000 police officers across the country.
Now, we're at various stages of the implementation of that. The local jurisdictions still have to go through their hiring processes, the training processes, what have you, but they're moving along in a very timely way as well. We're meeting our end of the bargain at the federal level. We're being responsive. It's going to be done timely, and it's going to be done in a simple way.
There are various other phases or stages of funding we've talked about. There's more to come, specifically a Cops More program that we will be announcing shortly. The agencies are already starting to apply for that. That is a very flexible kind of approach, and it's intended to allow agencies to provide monies for technology and overtime and other areas where they can free up existing officers to put them out in the field engaged in community policing. We can talk more about those kinds of strategies and approaches later.
I would sense that what you're all interested in is getting your questions answered, and that's what John and I are here to do today. So why don't we jump into that.
Q Do either of you know how many cops from the -- I guess, the 100,000 in the Crime Bill have gone to the Washington, DC, Police Department?
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHMIDT: The answer is we haven't made an award to Washington, D.C. yet. We have talked to Washington, D.C. At one point they had talked about applying and then backed away from it. As you know, this is not 100 percent funding, it provides no more than 75 percent of the cost. And I think they had a question whether in their current financial situation they were able to go forward. So we have talked to Washington, D.C., but there is no funding. There's funding for a lot of communities in the Washington area, but there's --
Q Have they not applied then?
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHMIDT: They've never formally applied, to my knowledge.
Q Do you think they withdrew because they would have to put up 25 percent?
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHMIDT: I think they just decided that they weren't in a position to go forward and increase their police force. They also, as you may remember, did increase their police force fairly substantially in recent years, so I think that may also be an element. There are, as I say, lots of grants to other communities in the Washington area and all those specifics are available to you.
Q Dr. Schmidt or Mr. Brann, to follow up on some of Helen's questions about, to some extent, the politics of this program -- when it was announced there was a lot of support, naturally, from mayors and local police chiefs. Now, to some extent, the Republicans are dangling perhaps a more attractive prospect in front of them, which is money for police work or other related law enforcement without all the strings attached, without saying that it has to be spent on police personnel, without saying that it has to be spent on community-based policing, which is a concept that's being dictated from the federal government rather than necessarily responsive to local needs. Are you worried that when this thing comes up for reauthorization on the Hill that the mayors and the chiefs will bail out on you and go for the Republican approach of money that's less restricted?
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHMIDT: Well, the law enforcement community was there in force at the announcement that we just made, including representatives of virtually all the major law enforcement groups. I think that they, universally, would tell you that this is a program which is meeting their needs at this point. And I think they're supportive of it.
I think that when you refer to federal dictates in the area of community policing, the fact is that we're not in a position of having to dictate community policing to anybody. Joe can tell you, community policing has become the Gospel for the law enforcement professionals all over this country. And everywhere I go, police departments talk about how they're doing it better than other police departments. But there is no element here of our having to force anybody into a recognition that the best way to use new police officers is to put them out into the street.
But I think the best thing we can do in response to any concern of that kind is to continue to show the law enforcement community that we, in fact, are meeting our commitments to them and this is a program that anybody can rely on. So whatever anybody dangles in their eyes, they will look at this and say, this is a program which is working and it's something we should support.
Q But what if a local Chief decides he needs more technology, more cruisers, more jail space, or something, rather than more cops on the street? Are you cutting off the federal funding for those kinds of programs in order to pay for this?
CHIEF BRANN: I think not, because, first of all, there is flexibility built into this. It's what I was alluding to when I was referring to the Cops More strategy. That allows agencies to make application for that pot of monies in ways that it will ultimately free up and make more efficient their use of resources.
One think I would state, too -- there may be an assumption that there is a need for more in the way of equipment and technology, and what have you; yes, it does exist out there, but I think that ultimately what we're trying to do in policing in this country is to make better use of our resources altogether on all different fronts. What I would say is, I have yet, in 26 years in policing, to meet a chief, sheriff or a cop who will not state to you unequivocally, we need more police. And that's what this is all about -- that's what ultimately our response, that 100,000 figure, is based upon.
That need is out there, it's -- again, just take a look at the numbers that we're talking about here. In the early stages of this game, we got requests for almost 40,000 cops, and we haven't even scratched the surface, literally. I mean, we're four months into this. One hundred thousand cops is a very realistic goal; we can meet it with these monies. And I think we need to keep that kind of a focus there. It's also commitment that was made to the American public and to the law enforcement community.
Q Let me ask one more question, one more way, which is probably even stupider than the first one, but if the federal government gave me, as a local mayor or police chief, the choice between fully funding 75 new officers and partially funding 100 new officers, even if it's 75 percent, I'd take the fully-funded 75 percent. Now, isn't that what the Republicans are offering, a slightly smaller pot of money, but no strings attached, you can use it however you want?
ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHMIDT: The Republican alternative that is in the House bill doesn't limit the funding at all to hiring of police officers. It would allow the local jurisdiction to use that money for anything which is deemed to be in the interest of public safety or crime prevention. So if you're a police chief and what you care about is your police department and your ability to hire additional officers, it's not particularly tempting or necessarily tempting to you to have a program which provides the money to the local jurisdiction in such a way that it doesn't provide any assurance that it will be used even for police purposes, let alone for police hiring.
I think that -- of course, if you ask the question in the abstract, would somebody rather have the money with no strings attached to be able to spend it for anything they want, I suppose you're going to find people who will say yes. The question is whether, from the standpoint of the federal government and the use of federal tax dollars, that's a sensible thing to do. One of the reasons that there is the requirement that we not go beyond 75 percent of the cost is because the local jurisdiction ought to have to make a judgment itself that it is committed to this and wants to do it.
In addition, unless you're going to provide funding forever -- and nobody wants to do that -- the local jurisdiction also has to be prepared to recognize that at the end of the three-year period it is going to have to pick up the funding.
So I think, from that perspective, this is a well- designed program. There were people who said there wouldn't be jurisdictions around the country would want the money on those terms. They would not want less than 75 percent of the funding knowing that they would have to pick up the cost at the end of the three years. That has turned out to be totally wrong. I mean, right now, with two programs that have been in operation for two months, we have communities asking for almost 40,000 police officers on terms where there are no waivers of any of those conditions.
There's another point that at least I think the more politically sophisticated police chiefs and mayors understand. If you really think that funding is going to be there down the road -- two years, three years, four years, five years from now -- for this kind of program, it seems to me you have to recognize the need for some visible, tangible, measurable achievement. And a program that is putting additional police officers into communities around the country will accomplish that. A program which allows money to be spent for anything that a local jurisdiction decides is in the interest of public safety or crime prevention is not going to accomplish that. And I think, therefore, people who are realistic about what will be sustained over a period of time aren't necessarily tempted by what somebody may dangle in their eyes for the sake of some immediate partisan or other advantage in an initial year. So I think you have that element also in the thinking of people around the country.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END12:58 P.M. EST