Fewer police, less equipment to protect them

By: - February 9, 2005 5:29 pm

President Bush’s town hall meeting in Raleigh is about Social Security, a controversial enough issue, but it is his budget proposal to Congress that is on the minds of state lawmakers and advocates for people who receive human services.

Medicaid of course tops the list and it should. But the budget is filled with a lot of unpleasant surprises for many folks across North Carolina. President Bush’s budget will all but eliminate the Community Oriented Policing Program, or COPS.

The program provides federal funding for local governments to hire new police officers, buy new equipment for law enforcement agencies, and begin new community anti-crime programs.

Last year cities in North Carolina received more than $130 million from the program. The money paid for things like bulletproof vests, 75 percent of the cost of hiring new police officers and deputy sheriffs, community anti-drug programs, victim’s services, and equipment upgrades as part of Homeland Security.

The Department of Justice issued a press release in May of last year quoting General John Ashcroft saying, “I am proud of our partnership with North Carolina’s state and local policy makers to improve the public safety of our states and our local communities.”

Folks in Washington apparently aren’t quite as proud this year, cutting off federal funds to dozens of cities across the state. Much of that money must be replaced to keep the additional officers on the job and keep community anti-crime programs running.

That puts pressure on local governments to come up with the funds to replace the federal dollars, a big problem for cities and counties already struggling with budget problems of their own.

Maybe somebody should ask President Bush Thursday why he wants to cut off money that makes North Carolina communities safer.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066