WASHINGTON — President Obama’s economic stimulus plan includes about $1 billion to help local governments hire more police officers, which would resurrect a Clinton administration program that had been largely shelved by President George W. Bush.
The so-called COPS Program, for Community Oriented Policing Services, aimed to add 100,000 police officers to local departments in eight years. Whether it met that goal is the subject of heated debate in law enforcement and public policy circles.
Mr. Bush, reflecting a Republican philosophical objection to having the federal government pay for local police salaries, all but eliminated the program.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said money to hire police officers was an appropriate part of the stimulus bill because it would aid the economy “as fast as, or faster than, other spending.”
“In police hiring, nearly 100 percent of the money goes to creating jobs,” Mr. Leahy said. “This is particularly important in the current economic crisis, since many police departments are already reporting increases in crime and cuts in their budgets and their forces.”
A senior analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, David B. Muhlhausen, who has written about the COPS program, disagreed, saying there was “no evidence that funding for these kinds of programs will stimulate the economy.”
Mr. Muhlhausen said that nonetheless, he expected the program to be enacted either as part of the stimulus package or by itself because “most politicians don’t want to be on the record as against a law enforcement program, and everybody likes the idea of bringing home some federal grants.”
Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent nonprofit group focused on improving police tactics, said that “from an economic stimulus standpoint, if you can use new police to stabilize a neighborhood, consolidate crime-reduction gains, then you can have a considerable impact on the local economy.”